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Don't be Left in the Dark When it Comes to Music for an Eclipse

As the eclipse approaches, many colleagues from all over the country have been wondering what music might be appropriate for this rare natural occurrence, a time when the sun’s glories are blocked from view.

More than a few people have suggested Holst’s wonderful The Planets, but that seems too general. Others have offered the stunning Song to the Moon from Dvořák’s opera Rusalka, but that only captures roughly half the story of the coming eclipse.

Then I suddenly remembered performances that marked the 300th Anniversary of Handel’s birth that I was privileged to hear, and the answer to the question about the ideal music for nature’s light—or dark—show popped into my mind.

There is no more appropriate piece than the title character’s first act aria from Handel’s Samson, an aria conveniently titled TOTAL ECLIPSE!

And while the aria is a powerful vocal display that shows Handel at his musical best, it is the lyrics—Newburgh Hamilton’s poetry that he based on Milton’s Samson Agonistes—that set the mood and make this operatic moment so ideal for this specific moment and event:

"Total eclipse! No sun, no moon, all dark amidst the blaze of noon!"

If you know the aria, the eclipse is a perfect excuse to hear it again. But, if you’ve never listened to this piece, the music and words will be eye-opening, or maybe it should be ear-opening.

Happy Eclipse!

Anthony Rudel is General Manager of GBH Music and is the author of four books, including Imagining Don Giovanni, Tales from the Opera, and Hello Everybody! The Dawn of American Radio.