Grand Rapids Symphony boldly goes to the great beyond with Holst’s epic symphonic suite, The Planets

Media Contact
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Senior Manager of Communications and Media Relations
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., January, 17, 2018 – Astrology argues that the positions of the planets, from the time we’re born, influence our personalities and destinies. English composer Gustav Holst, though he didn’t believe in astrology, was intrigued enough to compose a symphonic suite, The Planets.

Whether the alignment of the stars on the day we’re born influences our destiny is open to debate. That Holst’s suite has influenced composers for the past 100 years is not. In movies such as Star Wars, if you’ve heard the menacing musical theme of the Imperial Forces, you’ve heard the same sinister, martial rhythm found at the beginning of Holst’s seven-movement suite.

In fact, Star Wars producer George Lucas encouraged composer John Williams to take inspiration from “Mars, the Bringer of War.”

“Gustav Holst can be seen as unintentionally being one of the greatest movie composers of all time, inspiring many film scores of the last 50 years,” according to blogger Nathan Spendelow on the website Inside Film.

Come to DeVos Performance Hall on Friday and Saturday, February 2-3, and you’ll hear even more music that has inspired film composers. Grand Rapids Symphony presents The Planets the fifth concerts of the 2017-18 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, February 2-3, in DeVos Performance Hall.

Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead the concerts that also feature Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, nicknamed “Jupiter,” and Haydn’s Overture to Il mondo della luna (The World on the Moon).     

Vibration Research is the Concert Sponsor. The Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund is the guest artist sponsor. Bell’s Brewery is the Beverage Partner for The Planets.

The Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, directed by Pearl Shangkuan, will be featured on The Planets. Mary Tuuk is the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus Sponsor.

Concerts in DeVos Performance Hall feature video provided by the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Film from spacecraft that have visited the planets and their moons plus animations and simulations of galaxies, nebulae and other deep-space objects add to the musical experience.

Composed between 1914 and 1916, prior to the discovery of Pluto, The Planets still sounds fresh today.

In fact, three movements, “Mars, the Bringer of War,” “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” and “Neptune, the Mystic,” are among the most frequently quoted compositions of all time.

Musical scores for such well-known films as Aliens, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and The Terminator all suggest inspiration from The Planets. In the original 1977 Star Wars film, in the concluding act that sees Luke Skywalker firing his proton torpedo into the exhaust port of The Death Star, the dramatic film score by John Williams, which becomes louder and louder, building tension, follows the same format as “Mars” from The Planets.

Other TV shows and movies use portions directly. The 2010 TV series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, features music from “Jupiter.” The 2008 film Hellboy II: The Golden Army with Ron Perlman and Selma Blair, uses passages from “Mars.”

The 1983 film The Right Stuff, the story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn and Ed Harris, uses excerpts from “Jupiter,” “Mars” and “Neptune.”

Holst's starting point for the music was the astrological character of each planet. The composer himself pointed out there was no connection with the deities of classical mythology or the planetary bodies themselves. Holst’s daughter wrote that once her father had determined the format, “he let the music have its way with him.”

Haydn’s Il mondo della luna, a romantic comedy about a bogus astronomer, opens with an overture that sets the stage for the antics yet to come.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C Major has nothing to do with astrology or astronomy. Its nickname did not come from Mozart. Likely it came from the impresario Johann Peter Salomon who dubbed it “Jupiter” to promote it as a grand and glorious piece of music. With a duration of 30 minutes, it was the longest symphony Mozart ever composed. As fate would have it, it also would be his final symphony before his death at age 35. Today, it remains one of the most popular works Mozart ever composed.

  • Inside the Music, a free, pre-concert, multi-media presentation sponsored by BDO USA, will be held before each performance at 7 p.m. in the DeVos Place Recital Hall.

  • The complete The Planets program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, April 15, 2018, at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS box office, weekdays 9 am-5 pm, at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place ticket office, weekdays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Tickets program, sponsored by Comerica and Calvin College. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which was held in March 2017 and returns in 2019.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.