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Commissioned by Music Director Elisabeth Heath Charles
and the Butler County Symphony Orchestra, Butler, Pennsylvania
Apollo 11
Drew Fennell, composer

Program Notes

I intend for “Apollo 11,” apart from programmatic depictions of NASA's launch, three-day journey and historic moon landing, to be a celebration of the American spirit. The bold statement by President John F. Kennedy in a message to Congress in May of 1961 set forth the goal: “...before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” From this grand vision sprang one of the most audacious plans ever conceived by humankind. Having not yet even achieved earth orbit, the idea of astronauts travelling over two-hundred thousand miles through very inhospitable space to the Moon, landing and walking on its surface would seem impossible. And yet, through tremendous vision, creativity, ingenuity and downright courage, it became a reality in just over eight years.

The piece begins with a musical statement depicting Kennedy's words, and the response by politicians, scientists and all Americans to support the noble quest. After years of engineering and test missions, on July 16, 1969 we witness the countdown and the violent and fiery launch of the Saturn V rocket which would carry the astronauts into space. Next is depicted the experience of the peaceful weightlessness of space as the brave astronauts hurtle toward the Moon. Concluding the work, on July 20, 1969, America and the world celebrate one of the greatest triumphs in the history of humankind as Neil Armstrong descends the ladder from the Lunar Module to the Moon's dusty surface.

Duration: approximately 11 minutes

- Drew R. Fennell, April 14, 2008

  • Apollo 11 is published by Drew Fennell Publishing.
    Available for Orchestra and Brass Band.

  • Hear Apollo 11 in the live premiere performance (complete) by the Butler Symphony Orchestra, Elisabeth Heath Charles, Music Director (Drew Fennell, Guest Conductor) [orchestra version]*.

  • Hear/Download John F. Kennedy's sound clip for use during performance of Apollo 11 .

  • Hear/Download Neil Armstrong's sound clip for use during performance of Apollo 11 .

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