Preview: Rob Cope's Gods of Apollo - Rich Mix , 20th July

Jon Ormston, Elliot Galvin, Rob Cope, Alex Roth

20th July will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of the first man walking on another celestial body – the moon. Rob Cope writes about his new work, commemorating the anniversary, entitled 'Gods of Apollo'. Rob writes:

"I was inspired by the race to get to the moon, by the ideological battle between two superpowers that helped drive humanity to many of its greatest achievements. The piece uses historic mission recordings from the NASA and Soviet space agency archives, woven together to form an audio timeline covering the period 1957 to 1972. These audio samples are played chronologically: The band and audience both follow a timeline with markers to help pinpoint the events as they unfold. There are only two performance directions in the piece: The first is to tell the band that Sputnik beeps a concert D, and by a coincidence three of the four satellites launched after Sputnik also beeped a concert D. These sound at two different octaves, which made for a great texture for the band to play with. The other performance direction is a section marked ‘Magnificent desolation’, the words Buzz Aldrin used to describe the sight he saw when he exited the lunar module. This section is designated to feature solo piano over the looping background hum of the Apollo 13 radio transmissions.

"It was essential that I told the story of the space race from both the American and Soviet points of view. The relationship between the Soviet and American space programs has always fascinated me, and it was something that was essential to making the piece feel balanced, rather than a simple homage to NASA’s achievements.

"However, in contrast to NASA’s live mission broadcasts, the Soviet space agency only released footage of missions after they were successfully completed. While I was able to use the incredible publically available NASA Audio Archives, the secretive nature of the Soviet cold war space program makes it considerably more difficult to find audio of their missions.

"After a long search, I found some old Soviet propaganda films. One stunning example shows Alexey Leonov becoming the first human to perform a space walk (leaving the capsule to float around in space while tethered to the ship). The movie shows his success and you can hear a great deal of jubilation on the audio. What they don’t tell you however, is that Leonov was sent out with a suicide pill so that if he ended up trapped in the void of open space, he could kill himself. It’s stories like this one that continue to fascinate me about the space race, and are what I’ve tried to bring to life with this piece."

Gods of Apollo will be performing at Rich Mix on 20th July as part of the Pop-Up Circus The Story of the Moon night, starting at 8pm, and will feature:

Rob Cope – Saxophone
Alex Roth – Guitar
Elliot Galvin – Piano
Jon Ormston - Drums


  1. The piece was performed at the Naturist Foundation Jazz and Real Ale Festival at the end of June. Brilliant and innovative. I urge everyone to go and hear it.

  2. This is part of Pop-Up Circus' show at Rich Mix entitled 'The Story of the Moon' - a celebratory night featuring live animation, film, dance and three bands, including: the 19-piece Pop-Up Circus Big Band, playing original compositions inspired by the moon and space; Rob Cope's Gods of Apollo with visuals from Manuel Fernandez; and Mechanical Moon, fronted by Danish/Japanese singer Erica Jarnes.

    For my mailout about this see
    For full lineups and details visit the Pop-Up Circus site at
    To book tickets visit