The song, written by Hadfield’s brother Dave, is believed to be the first recorded from space. It’s also the first of many the astronaut hopes to record while circling the planet over the next five months, eventually laying down tracks for an entire album recorded in zero gravity.
“So bright / Jewel in the night / There in my window below / So bright / Dark as the night / with all of our cities aglow,” the song begins.
On the recording, you can hear the buzz of the space station’s fans as Hadfield strums a Larrivee P-01 Parlor guitar built in British Columbia and shipped to space more than 10 years ago. Playing guitar in space means adjusting your hands to where the frets are when you’re in free fall — almost like learning to play all over again.
“I’m really pleased Chris sang it,” Dave Hadfield said.
“It’s very much of a morale raiser to be able to play and sing for other people.”
Before every space mission Hadfield embarks on, Dave finds a way to jam with his brother immediately before he launches.
This time was no different. Before blastoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 19, Dave got medical clearance to visit his brother in the quarantine facility.
But it was a more emotional experience than a casual living room jam, with the empty room’s natural echo deepening the brothers’ voices and making the sound reverberate powerfully throughout the room.
“There’s a tree in the corner as big as the room / Tinsel and garnish and stockings up soon /A table that’s laden with every delight / Her hands, the piano, and carols all night.”
“That was a very poignant and, for me, an emotional time,” Dave Hadfield said.
“It was very pleasant. We’ll both remember that room.”
But the fact that Chris Hadfield is now in space doesn’t mean he’ll jam alone the entire five months.
Thousands of people will have a change to sing along with the astronaut on May 6. An organization called Music Makes Us has deemed that date Music Monday, a national day of celebrating music education in schools.
A song Hadfield wrote with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies called “I.S.S.” (Is Somebody Singing) will be released on CBC Music and taught to thousands of schoolchildren across Canada in various languages and arrangements. They’ll perform the song simultaneously with Robertson on Earth and Hadfield in space.
“Chris Hadfield has been very clear that he was a farm boy who dreamed of going to space. He believes that with focus and hard work that you can fulfill your dreams and he would like that to be one of his messages to young people,” said Holly Nimmons, Music Makes Us executive director.
“It’s aligned with what teaching music is all about. We hope that the song will be a unifying experience.”
For Hadfield, meanwhile, music-making comes at the end of every work day; at a time when most people would be leaving work for home, Hadfield gets a couple of hours to catch up on emails, exercise and play guitar.
“I hope he writes something while he’s up there . . . that’s a reflection of what he sees. I’m looking forward to whatever he comes up with,” Dave Hadfield said.
Jewel in the Night — Chris Hadfield’s Christmas carol from space
Jewel in the night,
There in my window below.
Dark as the night,
with all of our cities aglow.
It’s long been our way,
To honor this day,
And offer goodwill to men.
Where ever we go,
It’s come around to Christmas again.
Shines every star,
There without limit to see.
Beckoning, calling to me.
And let it be shown,
Wherever we go,
In all of the wonders above.
With all that we bring,
There’s no finer thing,
Than this message, this promise of love.
Love for the families that gather below,
Love for the stranger that you’ll never know,
For those who are with you,
who wander above.
Jewel in the night,
There lies the cradle we knew.
All that we love,
And all of our memories too.
It shall be our way to wander away,
To take with us all that we know.
And never cease,
This message of peace,
From Bethlehem so long ago.