LOS ANGELES — On September 21, as the Space Shuttle Endeavour arrived here, the welcoming ceremony at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) included artistic performances led by Aram Gharabekian. The program, comprising music and dance presentations throughout the arrival ceremony, featured the Open Music Fest Orchestra, tenor Steve Amerson, choreographer Aida Amirkhanian and the Open Music Fest dancers.
In the months prior to Endeavour’s arrival in Los Angeles, the Open Music Society Foundation (OMSF) worked closely with the City of Los Angeles and the California Science Center, the spacecraft’s new home, to design an integrated artistic program for the arrival ceremony. The concept that resulted was developed jointly by Gharabekian, the OMSF’s artistic director and conductor, and a dedicated team. The artistic presentations at the arrival ceremony marked the performance debuts of the OMSF.
The arrival ceremony, held at an United Airlines hangar at LAX, was attended by some 600 guests, among them several elected officials. Dignitaries who delivered remarks at the event included Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and California Science Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rudolph. The event’s mistress of ceremonies was actress Nichelle Nichols, of “Star Trek” fame.
Toward noon, the ceremony’s artistic program began with a flash-mob dance performance inside the hangar, featuring the Open Music Fest Dancers led by Amirkhanian. The dancers performed to a specially-created soundtrack, with works by Richard Strauss, James Brown and Aaron Copland, as well as a recording of the poem, “The Early Morning in Space,” recited by its author, Hilaire Belloc.
During the dance performance, employees and volunteers from the California Science Center and United Airlines joined the flash mob. As the shuttle-arrival countdown began and the hangar gate opened, gradually revealing the ceremony stage outside, the flash mob concluded its performance with a grand finale. The dancers then ran outside, inviting the guests to follow to their seats across the bleachers and the VIP section.
Subsequently the attendees watched Endeavour’s aerial spin over Los Angeles and- marks on a Jumbotron screen, and were awed by the sight of the shuttle flying over- head. NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, carrying Endeavour, touched down to the strokes of timpani, bass drum and tam-tam, the opening of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Offstage, trumpets and horns played the opening phrase of the Fanfare while the Open Music Fest Orchestra musicians joined the percussion in front of the podium. It was at this juncture, as Endeavour and its host aircraft taxied toward the hangar, that Gharabekian approached the orchestra and conducted Fanfare. With the climax of the Fanfare, the shuttle came to its final halt in front of the guests.