Anne Frank Oratorio Written by 125 High School Students to Premiere with Los Angeles Master Chorale and Soloists

By Louise Burton on Jan 16, 2015 08:01 PM EST

The Passion of Anne Frank, a new oratorio based on The Diary of Anne Frank, tells the poignant story of a young Jewish girl's experiences in German-occupied Holland during World War II. The oratorio was written by 125 high school students at Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles. The students created this nearly hour-long work under the guidance and mentorship of artists-in-residence from the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

This complex educational project, astonishing in its size and scope, is part of LAMC's award-winning "Voices Within" program.

Students will perform the premiere of The Passion of Anne Frank together with the LAMC Chamber Singers, professional instrumentalists and student soloists, in two free performances on Thursday, January 22 at noon and Friday, January 23 at 7:00 pm. Both performances will take place at Cortines High School in downtown Los Angeles. The performances are open to the public, but reservations are required.

More information is available at

An oratorio is a complex and sophisticated musical form that presents a challenge even for seasoned composers. It involves a text that tells a dramatic story, with solo voices, chorus and orchestra, and is performed with minimal stage action, costumes and scenery.

Mobilizing 125 high school students to create an oratorio certainly presents a complex logistical challenge. Los Angeles Master Chorale has met that challenge, with the assistance of Cortines teachers, not just once, but five times. In years past, Cortines students have created oratorios based on myths, legends or famous literary works including The Epic of Gilgamesh and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

You can hear what the Cortines students are capable of in this powerful video of last year's production, the oratorio Frankenstein: Of Monsters and Men.

This year's production is presented in the form of a passion, a specific type of oratorio that traditionally describes the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The passion is often used as an allegory to tell the story of other historical figures who may have suffered in much the same way.

The 9th through 12th grade students who composed the oratorio collaborated 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, Stormy Sacks and Desiree Fowler.

Fowler said that the scope of the work is such that the students, familiar with only the part they worked on, are unprepared for the emotional effect of hearing the entire oratorio.

"This is one of the projects that students do not really 'get' until it's over," Fowler said. "...No matter how much I tell them, they still don't really understand what it's like to hear their melodies sung by a very large choir, and [experience] the whole project with an image behind them, and with soloists... I've had students come up to me afterward and say, 'I can't believe the LA Master Chorale was singing my melody' and 'This is the best thing that's ever happened to me.'"

 A majority of the students at Cortines High School are Hispanic. Fowler said that the project, which starts at the beginning of the school year, teaches the students musicianship and composition skills and also shows them how much they can accomplish when they work collaboratively.

The 20-week program also encourages students to bond and form friendships. "It really does an amazing thing for our whole department as well as the whole environment of the class," Fowler said. "They did that; it's their music. It's phenomenal."

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TagsAnne Frank Oratorio, The Passion of Anne Frank, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Voices Within, Ramon C. Cortines School, Desiree Fowler, Stormy Sacks, Doug Cooney, Jonathan Beard, Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

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