Frankenstein: Of Monsters and Men, a major new oratorio with powerful themes of rejection, misunderstanding and regret composed by 100 high school students from downtown Los Angeles’ Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts and based on Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 novel, is being premiere by the students in conjunction with the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, instrumentalists and soloists in free matinee and evening performances on Thursday, February 20, 2014, at noon, and Friday, February 21, and 7 pm, at the high school’s main auditorium. (Ample free on-site parking is available.) Compelling arias and rousing choruses tell the dark gothic tale of the eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque monster during a laboratory experiment, and then, horrified by the result, regrets giving life to the creature he just made. The students composed the melodies and lyrics for the oratorio, which is told in several musical movements. The performances are the culmination of the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s award-winning “Voices Within” artists-in-residence program, designed to foster collaboration among students to create and perform their own original choral works.
Shelley’s novel, written when she was only 21 years old, resonates with students on a variety of levels. For the oratorio, students have focused on Shelley’s theme of being outcast as their libretto portrays the tale of a lonely creature shunned by his creator and misunderstood and feared by everyone else.
The 9th through 12th grade students worked closely over a 20-week period with the guidance and mentorship of singer Alice Kirwan Murray, lyricist Doug Cooney and composer Jonathan Beard, as well as their own choir teachers, Desiree Fowler and Stormy Sacks. They learned how to adapt a classic work of literature, write a libretto based on the adaptation and create the melodies and harmonic structure for each movement of the oratorio. They also learned techniques for capturing the “voice” of the characters and how to propel the momentum of the plot and paint the mood of a scene. After the work was completed, students auditioned for feature roles and received vocal coaching to prepare for the culmination performance. This is the fourth year LAMC has offered its “Voices Within” program at the school.
An oratorio is an extended musical composition with a text dramatic in character for solo voices, chorus and orchestra, performed with minimal action, costume and scenery. Complex and sophisticated musical works, they challenge even season composers, making the student’s accomplishments particularly noteworthy.
This massive undertaking is an extension of the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s award-winning music education program, “Voices Within,” which was originally designed to teach fifth graders collaborative and compositional skills by composing and performing their own original songs and has engaged over 25,000 children and created over 350 original songs since its launch in 2001.
Encouraged by previous successful collaborations involving elementary and middle school students, and with the support of the California Arts Council’s Artists-in-School Program, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Master Chorale adapted the “Voices Within” curriculum to address the advanced maturity of high school students, specifically choral students at the new visual and performing arts high school in downtown LA.
The concert is free, and seating is first come, first served. Cortines High School for Visual and Performing Arts is located at 450 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Campus parking is free (enter on Cesar Chavez Avenue).