VAN NUYS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS’ ORATORIO TO OUR DYING HOME

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

“Requiem: This Earth, Our Home” is a new oratorio, written in conjunction with the LA Master Chorale’s Voices Within Oratorio Project.

The piece will premiere, for fellow students, the evening of Friday, February 28th  at the Van Nuys High School Auditorium.

A performance the following day, Saturday, February 29th at 1 pm, will be a free community concert and open to the public.

The school chose the theme and the requiem format. But the students themselves wrote and composed the oratorio, which explores the subject of, and the students’ concerns about, climate change.

Doug Cooney, an award-winning writer, is one of the creators of this program and of Voices Within, which originally was geared toward fifth-graders.

Says Lesili Beard, Director of Education for the Master Chorale, “We learned there could be an opportunity for students who were more mature emotionally, psychologically, and in terms of what their music skills might be. That’s how the Oratorio Project began.”

Past Oratorio Projects have focused on the East Los Angeles High School Walkouts of 1968, the #metoo movement, and the U.S .incarceration of Japanese citizens during World War II.

Van Nuys is a public LAUSD high school, known for its focus on performing arts.

This year’s program employed three principal teaching artists: Alice Kirwan Murray, lead teaching artist and singer, Doug Cooney, lyricist, and Saunder Choi, composer. Van Nuys High School choir teacher Brianne Arevalo led the vocal program of 9th through 12th grade students.

 “We ponder the subject matter for months, researching, asking the students from the previous year or years. The goal is to find an enormous, epic story. It can be historic; it can be mythic.” Climate change is one of the subjects the students themselves brought up. 

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