The moment Chris Hadfield took to the stage of the Rebecca Cohn Theatre, the room filled with applause. After reading up on the decorated Colonel’s past achievements, it is not hard to see why the man is held in such high esteem. One of the first Canadian space shuttle crew members for NASA, Hadfield has gone on to work with iconic space projects such as Canadarm, Mir, and the International Space Station. He has been on three separate space expeditions, orbited Earth 2600 times, and has published three books just for good measure, making him a household name for Canadians.
For someone with such an incredibly successful and distinguished resumé, Hadfield is remarkably down to earth (no pun intended). He is funny and affable; his easy-going personality exudes a natural stage-presence. Throughout his performance, the audience is regaled with both anecdote and fact about being up where so few have gone before, happily fielding any questions about his travels. If Hadfield is to be admired for one trait it is humility— he is the epitome of patriotism, dedicating his accomplishments to the betterment of Canada. He is a proponent of hard work, advocating that big risk can yield big reward and that the best response to fear is competence. In the majority of his songs, Hadfield’s message to not pass up fleeting opportunities is as clear as the space-related influences he draws upon.
A proud family man, Hadfield was encouraged and inspired by his wife, brother, and children to pen songs in zero-gravity while orbiting Earth. As such, the final product Hadfield brings to his listeners is wrapped in warmth. It is endearing to think that in moments of rare human accomplishment Hadfield’s heart was never far from home. Songs like “Space Lullaby,” “Caroline,” and “I Wonder If She” are powerful examples of dedication, making the cold vastness of space seem somehow more familiar.
As much as Symphony in Space touches upon the theme of family and opportunity, the show equally recognizes and revels in the milestones achieved by human ambition. It is obvious from his stories that there has been tremendous sacrifice on Hatfield’s part in regard to his marriage and ability to be present as a father— demands, that for many of us, would exact too heavy a toll. True to its title, this performance is a celebration of space; Hadfield’s songs “Big Smoke” and my personal favourite, “Beyond the Terra,” paint striking pictures inside the listener’s mind.
Symphony In Space provides warmth and light about a place commonly viewed as bleak, dark, or endless. Witnessing Hadfield nostalgically recall and describe what he has seen makes his work resonate and inspire. His appropriately included and semi-revised cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is a significant, heartwarming homage that appropriately capped off the evening. It is hard to imagine the show reaching the levels it does without the accompaniment of Symphony Nova Scotia, who effortlessly elevate Hadfield’s work to captivating effect. They also treat the audience to renditions of musical scores from classic sci-fi films like E.T., Star Wars, and Apollo 13 over the course of the evening. All told, Hadfield and his fellow musicians have offered a masterful experience that will dazzle and delight audiences who get the opportunity to see this show. Hadfield has found his own beauty and purpose while floating out in space, and it is an unforgettable one at that.