Bienen Ensembles

SOLD OUT: Eclipse

A socially-distanced performance under the full moon

Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 7:30pm

Northwestern Lakefill

Commissioned by Northwestern University for the choirs of the Bienen School of Music.

In memory of Thomas Kasdorf

Based on Northwestern alumna and Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson's poem of the same title, Eclipse was composed by Kevin Vondrak and Donald Nally, while separated by nearly 800 miles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspired by the shared experience of the sights, sounds, and emotions conjured while standing on the shores of Lake Michigan under a full moon, the work addresses our individual and collective experiences with sadness, aloneness, anger, and loss, as well as hope and togetherness. Eclipse offers a reflection on upheaval and change, both past and present, conveying the simple yet profound truth: We carry the news with us.

Eclipse is designed to be performed in a safe, socially-distanced setting. Over 60 performers will be stationed at intervals along the Northwestern Lakefill (located across the bridge just east of Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts), creating an ethereal cloud of sound. Audience members experience the piece in a linear fashion by walking the length of the Lakefill from south to north at a relaxed pace.

We ask that audience members adhere to Northwestern University guidelines by wearing a mask and maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others not in their group at all times.

Free, timed admission is available for groups of one to four people. Groups must reserve their spot within a specific 15-minute window, and are asked to arrive at the Lakefill bridge within or shortly before their chosen 15-minute window. Visit the links below to reserve a time.

One ticket is equal to one reservation. Limit 4 people per reservation.

Make an April 25 Reservation
Make an April 26 Reservation

Performance Map

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Program Note from Composer/Conductor Donald Nally

Like so many we know, distanced from their families and friends, Kevin and I wrote Eclipse separated by nearly 800 miles. We wrote it with a shared knowledge of nighttime walks on the banks of Lake Michigan; like Angela Jackson, we’ve both stood at the same spot on the campus of Northwestern and let the sound of rolling waves draw us inward, downward to our foundation, our self. We’ve watched as the light bounces around on the lake’s surface, like little signals trying to speak to us—the energy of the Sun hitting the exposed Moon and reflecting off the water—standing on the shore. The stuff of poetry; ancient bodies, observed by the living.

Maybe the things I’ve thought about, standing there in the Full Moon, differ from Angela’s or Kevin’s, but they emerge from the same place in my mind—one of memory, loss, and a sense of belonging. One of wonder and humility, and at the same time disappointment and disgust. One of “this is how things are, not how I’d like them to be.”

In creating a musical setting in which Angela’s words speak nearly unadorned, we wanted also to capture that beautiful picture of lights flickering on the water; they’re there, in the little notes that seem to jump out of the darker textures of monotone chant. They mostly reach up—there is hope in the poem, and there is hope in the music—yet, sadness is ubiquitous here; the sadness that descends on us when we are invited into our own reflection by the sound of waves, the stars of the night, a Full Moon, life transitions. Hope, sadness, and aloneness: the state of the individual, and in particular the singer, in the Time of the Pandemic. Thus, each performer sings to themselves, making up their own simple tune. Hope, sadness, aloneness, and anger—anger for all those losses that lead to this poem, and then to our piece: the peoples of the Illinois Confederation on this lake, and the peoples of the Europeans who displaced them, the segregated people of color and the seemingly endless procession of guns pointed at them, our Mothers and Fathers and the Pandemic of 2020/2021 and those lives lost to it, and the dreams, ideas, and school years gone in its wake.

            We carry the news with us.

Eclipse is a pandemic-inspired work. It is born of need—for a work that can be sung and experienced in safety, distanced, and experienced linearly by audience members. It is designed for the Lakefill at Northwestern, to be sung by the water, at the Full Moon. Yet, we hope that the piece will live on past the masks and the isolation and be heard again—in a field, on a hill, in a parking lot, a backyard, by a stream—at a time when the singers gather and are close together beforehand and again afterward, grateful for the privilege of group singing, the importance (as in our piece) of the individual to the whole and the whole to the individual, listening together, close, and unafraid. We hope it is a memory of a time past, having emerged not just from the pandemic, but from the many eclipses that are gathered here in Angela’s words and in our music.

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This musical work is based on “Eclipse” by Angela Jackson from It seems like a mighty long time, copyright © 2015 by Angela Jackson. Published 2015 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All Rights Reserved.