Chris Hadfield’s group, formed in orbit, plays tunes that are truly out of this world

The musicians in the band Chris Hadfield is bringing to Sarnia in July have seen some things few others have seen.

The musicians in the band Chris Hadfield is bringing to Sarnia in July have seen some things few others have seen - writes

Hadfield, a retired Canadian astronaut, and a group of fellow astronauts and musicians with connections to the space program, are set to play Sarnia’s Imperial Theatre July 6.

Tickets are on sale at and at the downtown theatre’s box office.

“It’s a great group of people that I’ve known for a quarter of a century,” Hadfield said, while in a boat in the St. Clair River.

We work hard, and long hours all around the world, but there's always a chance to get together socially, and for the musicians to play music.

Chris Hadfield

Born in Sarnia, Hadfield still spends time at a family cottage on Stag Island.

“Astronauts come from all different backgrounds,” said Hadfield, who made three trips to space, including a 2013 mission as commander of the International Space Station.

“In addition to their technical skills and operational skills, lots of folks are musicians.”

Hadfield gained fame for a video of a cover version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded while Hadfield was on the space station.

Following his retirement, Hadfield released an album, Space Sessions: Song From A Tin Can, also recorded on the space station.

“We work hard, and long hours all around the world, but there’s always a chance to get together socially, and for the musicians to play music,” Hadfield said.

He began playing after work with an astronaut band while posted in Houston in the late 1980s, and the current group, known as Bandella, got its start “in a basement in Russia in about 2001,” Hadfield said.

At the time, he was NASA’s director at Star City, the Russian space centre, where crews rotated through for training.

They included astronaut Steve Robinson, also now retired.

“He plays all the string instruments, and has got great talent,” Hadfield said.

“There’s an absolutely iconic photo of him that’s shown all over the place.”

Robinson rescued the space shuttle by doing a spacewalk beneath its belly to repair some of its protective tiles and the photo was taken while he was riding the end of the Canadarm.

Joining them was Micki Pettit, who is married to an astronaut.

“She’s got a terrific voice,” Hadfield said.

“When I came to Houston in 2003, we thought, ‘Well shoot, why don’t we just play out in pubs and stuff?’ ”

Joining them was astronaut, Cady Colemen, now also retired, who plays the flute and performed a duet with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson from space.

Other musicians have come through the lineup over the years and a few additional players may join the band on stage in Sarnia.

“We’ve played a lot of different places,” including space, Hadfield said.

“When one of us was in space, we’ve played back and forth.”

Members on Earth would gather and tie into a video conference with the band member in orbit and play music together.

Hadfield did that while he was in orbit and his bandmates were performing with the Chieftains.

Some of the members are still in Houston, but others, including Hadfield, have relocated to other places so the band doesn’t play together as often, he said.

Last year, they got together in California and played a show there.

“We’ll do the same here, get together in my hometown and play the Imperial,” he said.

“And then, we’ll play just around the campfire for friends on Stag Island, also.”

Hadfield described the music they play as “world acoustic” with both original songs and cover tunes.

“We just love each other, so it makes it a lot of fun,” he said.

“For me to bring it back to the hometown, is a delight.”

Hadfield said the concert will help support the Imperial Theatre.

Tickets are $50 for the first five rows and $35 for the remaining seats.

There is also a VIP meet-and-greet event with the band before the show for $85. It doesn’t include tickets to the show.

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