A few years ago, Sarah Brightman was planning to make a re-entry into the earthly world after a trip to space. That adventure did not happen, but Brightman found she had gone far enough into the world of space travel that she had to make a re-entry of another kind if she was to resume her primary career as a singer, recording artist and performer.
So after spending five years training and preparing for a flight into space, Brightman set up a different sort of lab to transition back to music.
“I rented this small house on the beach, in a warm place, and I asked a friend of mine, who is an opera singer who also teaches, if he would come and work with me for a few months,” Brightman recounted in a mid-December phone interview. “And that’s all we did, every day. We’d lie on the beach and then I would sing and work on things and listen to things. And that was how I got my head back around to doing all of this (music) and started to get inspired by, you know, what I had been doing originally.”
Brightman’s planned 10-day trip in September 2015 to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyus rocket had been quite the source of curiosity — not to mention media coverage. She booked her ticket through Space Adventures, Ltd, a private space experience company for a reported $31 million in Canadian dollars.
But then she announced in May 2015 that she was postponing her plans for the flight. Brightman has not been specific in her public explanations for why she didn’t complete her intended mission.
“I came out of the space program for all sorts of reasons and not necessarily [in] my control, although, you know, I passed all of my exams. I did everything,” she said in this interview.
One thing she realized when she stepped away from the space program and back into normal life, was the world around her had gone through some stark changes.
“I had about five years where I wasn’t concentrating on the world,” Brightman said. “I was just trying to focus in on all of the space stuff, what I had to do, because it’s incredibly hard. And when I came out of it, because I had been away, I could see things very clearly when I suddenly looked. And I was very shocked. I was shocked at actually how kind of on the edge of dystopian we were.”
So Brightman found herself turning away from the scientific toward the spiritual, and this provided her inspiration for what the Hymn album would become.
“I really, really wanted to do something that is sort of enlightening for me,” she said. “All of those Biblical rules that we’re all given, and they’re very simple rules, I mean, about goodness, looking after your neighbor, enjoying the moment and being enlightened as much as you can in life because it’s a short time that we’re here, all of those [are] simple rules. So kind of like having that break from that faith thing and being in a scientific world, suddenly coming (out of it), that’s what enticed me to do an album and a piece like this.”
The album that resulted has its spiritual themes (the title track, written by Barclay James Harvest, and “Better Is One Day” are very much Christian songs), but is more meant to inspire hope, happiness and belief in the ability of people to do right in this world. Musically, Hymn, like other Brightman albums, is a lush work, with orchestra and choir giving it an ornate feel, as she sings songs that are both contemporary, including the title track, “Fly To Paradise” (by Eric Whitacre) and “Sky and Sand” (by German DJ Paul Kalkbrenner), as well as traditional works such as Gia Nel Seno (La Storia D Lucrezia).”
Hymn is Brightman’s 12th studio album (not counting compilations and albums with former husband Andrew Lloyd Webber), and her sales of more than 30 million albums (as well as her elaborate concert tours) have made Brightman a leading classical crossover artist, a genre she is credited with originating. Those successes followed her initial turn in the spotlight with musical theater, where she originated the role of Christine Daae in the London production of Phantom of the Opera by Webber.
Brightman figures to touch on music from throughout her career during shows on a current tour in support of Hymn. It’s an elaborate show, both musically and visually, complete with costume changes for Brightman.
“It’s beautiful because there are a lot of human beings on stage,” Brightman said. “Obviously, we’ve got orchestra and band. And we’ve got all of these choir members singing. I wanted to use a huge amount of back light and beautiful light design, which bathed the whole thing. It’s amazing because my music, for whatever reason, [makes people] think of something very uplifting and very spiritual and it leaves people happy. And this album is particularly like that. So that really is what the tour is.”
On the Bill: Sarah Brightman. 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, Denver. Tickets are $50-$249, altitudetickets.com/events/detail/sarah-brightman