Longwood’s Nightscape: Nocturnal awe redux

Evenings at Longwood Gardens are creatively aglow again with the reemergence of “Nightscape: A Light and Sound Experience.”

Evergreens in Peirce's Woods help light the pathway connecting installations for 'Nightscape.'

Evergreens in Peirce's Woods help light the pathway connecting installations for 'Nightscape.'

The innovative mix of light, sound, imagery, and music created by Klip Collective of Philadelphia was introduced in 2015 as a way to fill the void created by the 2 ½-year restoration of the Main Fountain Garden, which anchored summer displays and fireworks. Nightscape will run through Saturday, Oct. 29.

Fans of last year’s display will experience enough changes to warrant a repeat visit. Two crowd-pleasing installations that each conveys a 10-minute story – the whimsically animated symphony of the Topiary Garden and the enchanting seasonal chronicle at the Large Lake – received minor tweaks and continue to generate spontaneous applause.

Other popular displays with minimal alterations include the the Palm House, the Silver Garden, and the Rose Arbor. The Legacy Tree has received an illuminating boost, and more substantive differences in sound and lights can be found along the Flower Garden Walk and the Flower Garden Drive.

A new installation graces the Exhibition Hall in the conservatory.

A new installation graces the Exhibition Hall in the conservatory.

New installations include the Exhibition Hall in the conservatory, which features a kaleidoscopic effect of light and sound; the Mediterranean Garden, where blue and green hues enliven the plants; Peirce’s Woods, which features a bold burst of color changes on a grouping of evergreens; and the Waterlily Display, which dramatically lights the Victoria water platters with patterns formed below the pond.

Regulars are likely to find the visual and auditory experience more immersive with enhanced synchronization of the pulsing lights and music. In addition, lights have been added in many places along the route that contains the outdoor installations.

The Silver Garden features a pulsing kaleidoscope of lights.

The Silver Garden features a pulsing, vibrant kaleidoscope of lights and colors.

The musical changes prompted the creation of a Nightscape soundtrack in a limited-edition vinyl record as well as a digital version. The digital version includes all music from the 2015 and 2016 display, and is available for download and streaming at all major online music outlets. The vinyl record showcases selected music from both years and a digital download card for the full soundtrack; it is available at the Garden Shop and online at Amazon and Bandcamp.

“The overall experience is spectacular,” said Jim Tupitza of Newlin Township. “It’s got to be on everyone’s bucket list. It's a local treasure.”

One of the new additions to the 2016 Nightscape are the underwater lights beneath the water lilies and platters.

Among the new additions to the 2016 Nightscape are underwater lights beneath the water platters.

Tupitza said he and his wife did not find the display "significantly different" from last year’s, which they viewed several times; however, the lapse in seeing it made the experience feel new and exciting.

“There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting and watching dragonflies zip across the trees,” he said of the Large Lake installation. He also advocated strolling on some of the ancillary pathways and viewing the displays from a distance. “The lights are more subtle and there’s no noise or crowds,” he said.

Like the 2015 edition of Nightscape, Longwood has scheduled a number of programs and features to complement the exhibit.

The Rose Arbor display provides a dramatic entrance to the Flower Garden Drive.

The Rose Arbor display provides a dramatic entrance to the Flower Garden Drive.

The Longwood Beer Garden, constructed of wood from a fallen Longwood sequoia, will be open Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 6 to 10:30 p.m., featuring food, wine and signature beers crafted by Victory Brewing Company with ingredients from the gardens. On Thursdays, live music will be performed in the Beer Garden from 6 to 9 p.m. by a rotating roster of area performers.

Marc Silver's bluegrass group will perform on Aug. 25, Sept. 29, and Oct. 13. Singer-songwriter Joy Ike will entertain on Aug. 18, Sept. 8, and Oct. 6. The Brazilian-inspired jazz group Ensemble Novo will take the stage on Sept. 1 and Sept. 22, and Polkadelphia will offer a blend of old and new polka on Aug. 11, Sept. 15, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27.

Signage has been updated to help guide visitors through Nightscape.

Signage has been updated to help guide visitors through Nightscape.

On Sept. 21, at 7 p.m., guests can learn about the brewing process during “Gardens on Tap: Meet the Brewer,” featuring a panel discussion with Longwood and Victory staff. Member appreciation days, featuring a 20 percent discount for members in the Garden Shop and restaurants, are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7, and Wednesday, Oct. 5.

An Artist & Friends Nightscape Speaker Series, scheduled at 7 p.m. on Aug. 12, Sept. 9, and Oct. 7,  will offer insight into the creative process that produced the displays. Panel discussions will include Nightscape creator Ricardo Rivera with urban technologists and artists. They will discuss cutting-edge topics inspired by the technology, art, music, and design of Nightscape.

A colorful metamorphosis greets visitors in the Silver Garden.

A colorful metamorphosis greets visitors in the Silver Garden.

Nightscape will be on view Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 6 to 11 p.m. through Oct. 29. Many nights are expected to sell out again since Longwood limits the number sold to keep the exhibit from getting too crowded. The gardens open at 9 a.m.; however, because the exhibit requires darkness, optimal viewing of Nightscape in August starts at 9 p.m., in September at 8 p.m., and in October at 7 p.m.

Admission is $27 for adults (ages 19 and up); $17 for students (ages 5 to 18); and free for ages 4 and under. For members, tickets are free; however, they need to make advance reservations to obtain them, Chimes Tower members and those included in their membership level do not require reservations.

Nightscape is a rain-or-shine event. If rain threatens, guests are encouraged to bring umbrellas to view the outdoor portion of the display, and comfortable shoes are recommended in any weather. Seeing Nightscape in its entirety takes more than an hour. Visitors who are unfamiliar with the gardens might want to arrive early enough to visit the display sites during daylight, which will make their nighttime transformation even more striking.

Longwood Gardens dates back to 1906, when industrialist Pierre S. du Pont purchased a small farm near Kennett Square to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber. Today, it is one of the world’s great horticultural displays, encompassing 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, a 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ and 4.5-acre conservatory. Longwood is located on Route 1 near Kennett Square. For more information, visit longwoodgardens.org or call 610-388-1000.

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