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Ambient Orchestra Reimagines David Bowie's Final Album 'Blackstar'

Photo by Sachyn Mital

When Rockstar, David Bowie, died two years ago at the age of 69, he left behind a parting gift. He’d been secretly working on a new album, knowing it would be his last.  “Blackstar” is Bowie’s message from the great beyond. The singer’s death, and his last work, so moved a Boston based musician that he composed a symphonic homage to him. The group called, “The Ambient Orchestra,” will perform it Friday Night at the Moss Arts Center in Blacksburg. 

‘Lazarus’ Is a single from ‘Blackstar, his last album, released three days before David Bowie died.  Like musicians and fans everywhere, conductor Evan Ziporyn mourned his loss. 

“This whole project came about because of the shock at how affected I was and how affected so many people I knew were about David Bowie’s death. And pretty much, right away, I got a volunteer orchestra together in Boston to do a tribute to Bowie, that we did that within two or three weeks of his death and it just was clear to me that the community kind of needed it that musicians needed to say something to be with the music.

Ziporyn, who is a composer and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had been listening to Blackstar “obsessively and I was like, man, this does not sound like any other record I’ve ever heard; the range of colors and textures, the range of expression in the instrumental music and in his voice, and I just thought this could be a cello concerto with Maya as a soloist.

Maya Beiser is a cellist who has dedicated her work to reinventing solo cello performance in the mainstream classical arena.

"Years ago, she and Ziporyn were original members of a group called the “Bang on a Can All-Stars.”

For a Bowie tribute, she says, “Evan and I were working together on different ideas and he said, what do you think about doing the entire ‘Blackstar’ album as a cello concerto?

Beiser says, “There’s something about the range and his intonation and the way his wild and vast expression in his voice really could be emulated by the cello.” It began as a single tribute concert, but as people heard about, they began asking for them to do additional shows.  Ultimately, they took the show on the road. They’ll be making four stops, one of them, Friday, October 12, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. in Blacksburg, Virginia at the Moss Arts Center, 190 Alumni Mall, Blacksburg, VA 24061

The performance will take place in the Street and Davis Performance Hall, Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre.
For Tickets click here.

U.S. Tour Dates Announced
Oct. 12: Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Oct. 13: Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington, VT
Nov. 1: Texas Performing Arts, Bass Concert Hall, Austin, TX
Nov. 7: Stanford Live, Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, CA
*See end of press release for performance details*


The Moss Arts Center is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.