‘Voices Within’ students chronicle a century-old tragedy with new oratorio

This Thursday and Friday, the students of “Grand Arts” will present a new vocal work that they’ve been working on for some time, through the educational program offered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.  Listers involved include Alice Kirwan Murray and Michael Alfera, as well as several members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers.  Performances are free, but reservations are required, particularly for the Thursday performance, which will be especially packed with students, faculty and parents.  See more information in the press release below.


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[Press release]

Woman at the Window: The Triangle Factory Fire, an oratorio composed by 85 students from Ramón C. Cortines High School and based on the horrific 1911 fire that killed 146 people at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in one of the worst workplace disasters in American history, will be premiered by the students and the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers in free matinee and evening concerts February 4, noon, and February 5, 7 pm, at Ramón C. Cortines High School’s Main Theatre.

WORLD PREMIERE OF WOMAN AT THE WINDOW: THE TRIANGLE FACTORY FIRE, ORIGINAL ORATORIO COMPOSED BY 85 CHOIR STUDENTS FROM DOWNTOWN LA’S RAMÓN C. CORTINES HIGH SCHOOL, FEATURES STUDENTS AND LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE CHAMBER SINGERS, AND IS PART OF CHORALE’S ACCLAIMED “VOICES WITHIN” OUTREACH PROGRAM

  • Free matinee and evening performances open to public are
    Thursday, February 4, 2016, noon, and Friday, February 5, 2016, 7 PM at Ramón C. Cortines High School’s main theatre.
  • Powerful oratorio, with music and lyrics written by students
    with guidance of professional teaching artists, is based on horrific 1911 fire at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in NYC, the worst workplace tragedy in American history until the Twin Towers fell on 9/11.
  • Project aligns with Chorale’s concert season, featuring
    oratorios by Handel and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe

The Woman at the Window: The Triangle Factory Fire – a powerful original oratorio with music and lyrics by 85 high school choir students from downtown Los Angeles’ Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts based on the horrific 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in which 146 garment workers, mostly young girls from immigrant families, perished in the worst workplace tragedy in American history until the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 – is being premiered by the students in conjunction with the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers in free performances on Thursday, February 4, at noon, and Friday, February 5, 2016, at 7 pm, at the high school’s main auditorium.  (Ample free on-site parking is available.)

The haunting, yet inspiring, 45-minute work with compelling arias and emotional choruses, was developed through the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s award-winning “Voices Within” artists-in-residence program, designed to foster collaboration among students as they create and perform their own original choral works under the guidance of professional teaching artists.  The piece also aligns with the Chorale’s current concert season, which features oratorios by Handel and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe.

As the oratorio recounts, there was no escape from the fire that broke out on the 8th floor of the Triangle Factory in lower Manhattan on March 25, 1911.  Within 20 minutes, the inferno had spread to two more floors, resulting in the death of 146 workers, mostly young girls from Italian and Jewish immigrant communities.  The event underscored the unfair labor conditions in America where female workers, in particular, were expected to work long hours for low pay.  At that time in American history, building safety standards were overlooked and fire rescue attempts were inadequate to handle high-rise structures; horse-drawn fire trucks did not have ladders tall enough to reach the upper floors.  Significantly, the Triangle Fire raised awareness regarding the newfound presence and unequal treatment of women in the workplace.  Tragically, the fire is mostly remembered for the horrible manner in which victims perished, plummeting to their deaths from windows and fire escapes as helpless bystanders watched from below.  To this day, 105 years later, the anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire continues to be honored in New York City with memorials and tributes. The building, now owned by New York University, still stands, housing the school’s biology and chemistry labs.

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 seasoned composers, making the student’s accomplishments particularly noteworthy.

The 9th through 12th grade students who composed the piece collaborated over a 20-week period with the guidance and mentorship of singer Alice Kirwan Murray, lyricist Doug Cooney and composer Michael Alfera, as well as with the school’s choir teachers, Desiree Fowler and Stormy Sacks.  They learned how to write a libretto and create the melodies for each movement of the oratorio.  They also learned techniques for capturing the “voice” of the characters, propelling the momentum of the plot and painting 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 sixth year the Los Angeles Master Chorale has offered its “Voices Within” program at the school.

Voices Within,” a music education program originally designed to teach fifth graders collaborative and compositional skills by composing and performing their own original songs, has engaged over 25,000 children who have created more than 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 noted visual and performing arts high school in downtown LA.

The concert is free, and seating is first come, first served. Reservations required. Visit LAMC.ORG for details.

Cortines High School of Visual and Performing Arts is located at 450 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.  Campus parking is free (enter on Cesar Chavez Avenue).

What

Woman at the Window: The Triangle Factory Fire – World Premiere

  • 85-voice choir comprised of high school students from Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers
  • Student Soloists
  • Instrumentalists
Dates

Thursday, February 4, 2016, noon (seating limited)

Friday, February 5, 2016, 7 pm

Place

Cortines Main Auditorium
Ramón C. Cortines High School of Visual and Performing Arts, a.k.a. “Grand Arts”
450 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Parking

Parking on campus is free; the parking structure is accessible via the school’s Cesar Chavez Avenue entrance.

Cost/Info

Free, but reservations are required. Visit LAMC.ORG for details.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of LA Master Chorale

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