MCC Planetarium, Nouveau Papillion present Visionsphere

Saggio, James Enos (MCC), Hildi Thelen, Ed Capps (back row), Mark Bensette Aux Bois, Dr. Kevin Healy (MCC). (Submitted photo)

Mesa Community College and Nouveau Papillon are partnering to present “Visionsphere,” a performance of digital imagery displayed on the college’s planetarium dome, accompanied by live New Age instrumental music by international recording artists.

The hour-long performances include 11 individual audio and visual experiences, developed by a team of MCC faculty and Nouveau Papillion artists and technicians, according to a release.

“We’re using the planetarium technology in new ways to engage with our students as well as our community. The marrying of Digistar planetarium technology with live musical performances provides a truly immersive experience,” Kevin Healy, MCC astronomy faculty, said in the release. “We built each visual experience to enhance each Nouveau Papillon piece.” 

Digitally mastered visuals include angels gliding through the heavens, panoramic cavernous tours, fractal art, steampunk graphics and indigenous Arizona wildlife and nature, the release states. 

International recording artists Nouveau Papillon perform selections from their current and upcoming albums. Mark Bensette Aux Bois, on electric harp and six- and 12-string acoustic/electric guitars; and Hildi Thelen on Native American-style flutes synchronize their performances to visual images on the dome.

The innovative pairing of live music with digital animation nets MCC-Nouveau Papillon performance at an international planetarianconference. 

“Our desire to provide a truly unique experience to our community led to an invitation to perform the “Visionsphere” show during the Digistar Users Group Conference at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in September,” Ed Capps, Nouveau Papillon manager, said in the release. “Our partnership with MCC has made it possible to create a truly unique experience for admirers of art, music and technology. I encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with our work to listen to the excerpts on our website; what we do live is even more phenomenal.” 

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There are five opportunities to experience “Visionsphere” this fall, the first is Aug. 31 and the second Sept. 20. The team debuts a new show, “Tranquil Soundscapes,” Sept. 21. In October, November and December, the Friday night “Visionsphere” performances are followed by Saturday evening “Tranquil” performances. Tranquil Soundscapes performers are MCC alumnus Saggio on handpans and world flutes and Mark Bensette Aux Bois on the electric harp.

All shows are hosted in the MCC Planetarium, 1833 W. Southern Ave. in Mesa, Building PS 15. Future dates to be announced as scheduled. Tickets are $20 and include a digital download of Nouveau Papillon’s CD Enchantment Blooms and may be purchased through PurplePass,

Half of ticket sale proceeds are being used to develop new MCC planetarium shows to present to the community on Astronomy Nights, a free, first Friday event hosted at the college during the academic year, according to the release.

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