Hundreds of mourners gathered in Cambridge today (March 31) for the funeral of internationally-renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking, who died on March 14. The ceremony included a piece of music specially composed for the scientist, titled “Beyond the Night Sky.”
The piece was commissioned last year by Hawking’s Cambridge university college, Gonville & Caius, in honor of the professor’s 75th birthday. Created by composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad, it is inspired by a children’s poem, “Universe,” by the American poet Steven Schnur, and includes quotes from Hawking’s famous book A Brief History of Time. The celestial music includes whistling and ‘shh’ sounds based on NASA recordings of space.
Watch the video below to hear “Beyond the Night Sky,” sung by the choir of Gonville & Caius. At the time of its debut, Hawking said the piece “captured the vastness of space, and a sense of wonder at the universe and the earth.”
Family, celebrity guests, and distinguished scientists were among the 500 attendees at Hawking’s funeral at the university church, Great St Mary’s. Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama The Theory of Everything, was one of the readers in the ceremony. Felicity Jones, who played Hawking’s wife in the film, was also at the service, along with model Lily Cole. The guest list also included playwright Alan Bennett and Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk.
An arrangement of white lilies, meant to represent the universe, and another arrangement of white roses, representing the polar star, was placed on top of his coffin.
There will be another service for Hawking at Westminster Abbey in London on June 15, where his ashes will be interred, near the graves of sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.