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Flotilla of hot air balloons forms Sky Orchestra over Bristol

The spectacle was kept secret to prevent crowds turning up to watch the launch, in keeping with coronavirus social distancing rules.

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Balloon over Bristol

A flotilla of seven hot air balloons took to the skies above Bristol to perform music from the air directly into people’s homes.

Sky Orchestra, featuring a piece played through battery-powered speakers, accompanied by a live guitarist, set off from Ashton Court Estate on Tuesday evening.

The project, by artist Luke Jerram and composer Dan Jones, was premiering a new composition commissioned by Bristol Old Vic theatre.

Contributors included Grant Marshall and Stew Jackson of Massive Attack, and Adrian Utley of Portishead.

Outgoing Bristol city poet Vanessa Kisuule wrote a spoken word part, while composer Elizabeth Purnell created the string arrangements.

The spectacle was kept secret to prevent crowds turning up to watch the launch, in keeping with coronavirus social distancing rules.

Sky Orchestra Bristol
(Ben Birchall/PA)

Mr Jerram said the Sky Orchestra piece, which has been developed since lockdown measures were introduced in the UK, would “deliver music right into people’s homes”.

“With all the music halls and theatres closed we thought we would do something for Bristol that would be an uplifting experience and a collaborative event for everyone to enjoy,” he said.

“We’ve got seven hot air balloons with speakers attached and each balloon will play a different part of the musical score.

“As they take off, it will create this massive surround sound experience from the sky and will fly over the city.

“The sound of the music should be echoing around the streets – it should be really beautiful.”

Sky Orchestra Bristol
(Ben Birchall/PA)

Organisers had been waiting two months for the right flying conditions.

Mr Jones described the Sky Orchestra as a “giant surround sound system that floats over the city”.

He paid tribute to the “amazing musicians” – established and emerging – who worked on the piece.

The composer said he hoped it would help remedy some of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the arts.

Sky Orchestra Bristol
(Ben Birchall/PA)

Funds raised from the sale of the track, which is available to download online, will be donated to support emerging musicians in Bristol.

Sky Orchestra was first performed at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in 2003, and flew across London to mark the 2012 Olympics.

Tom Morris, of Bristol Old Vic, said: “All of Bristol is a theatre and the safest performance space in the world is the sky.

“Many performance venues in Bristol remain closed, but the need for inspiring work by our most extraordinary artists is greater than ever.”

The performance, entitled Sky Orchestra – A Moment in Time, took place with permission from Bristol City Council and within social distancing guidelines.

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