Los Angeles Master Chorale Oratorio Project to Premiere Student-Written ‘Naia: The Spirit of Hoyo Negro’

By Chris Ruel
(Photo Credit: Los Angeles Master Chorale)

The Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Voices Within Oratorio Project has announced the digital premiere of a new oratorio, “Naia: The Spirit of Hoyo Negro.”

Released over four days, the digital premiere features four episodes beginning on May 3, 2021, and leading to the presentation of the complete work on May 7, 2021. The debut will stream on the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s website.

Nearly 80 Van Nuys high schoolers worked in tandem with four Master Chorale teaching artists to write “Naia.” The students met weekly with the teaching artists in a virtual environment to write the libretto and melodies for each movement.

The teaching artists included Alice Kirwan Murray, lead teaching artist and singer, Doug Cooney, lyricist, Saunder Choi, composer, and singer Kelci Hahn. Van Nuys High School choir teacher Brianne Arevalo, who leads the vocal program of 9th through 12th-grade students, worked alongside the teaching artists. A 12th grader will sing the role of Naia.

“Naia” centers on a pre-historic teen named Naia who is discovered 13,000 years later in an underwater cave off the coast of Mexico’s Yucátan peninsula. The theme of isolation connects the epic story with the situation the teens find themselves in today, separated from friends and in-classroom education.

“It was imperative that the Master Chorale continue its Oratorio Project during the pandemic, to give students the opportunity to create, stay connected and build community during a time of isolation,” said Lesili Beard, the Master Chorale’s Director of Education in a press release. “The students used this year’s theme to reflect on their own experiences living in the time of the pandemic, including social isolation, with little support for remote, digital learning. We are so grateful for our continued partnership with Van Nuys High School.”