Oratorio Remembers 1963 Chicano Student Walkout

By Chau Tran

Embrace your culture through music.

The Van Nuys High School Vocal Department and the Los Angeles Master Chorale presented the “Walkout: Past, Present, Repeat” oratorio on March 2 in the Donna Hubbard Auditorium.

Conducted by the Choral Music Director, Ms. Brianne Arevalo, and accompanied by student instrumentalists, 85 students from the VNHS Vocal Ensemble and Bella Voce Ensemble came together to write the oratorio piece. The oratorio also included soloists: Jessica Turcios as Paula Crisostomo, Darian Calderon as Sal Castro, Adam Ruckman as Mr. Mitchell, May Nguyen as Emma Gonzalez and Enrique Berganza as David Hogg.

The oratorio project is based off the East Los Angeles High School Walkout of 1968, which sparked the Chicano civil rights movement.

The Vocal Department and Master Chorale performed a total of 9 pieces to represent each movement: “Walkout,” “Better Than You,” “Mi Lenguaje,” “We Will Rise,” “We Rise, We Walk,” “Viva La Raza,” “When Will We Learn Again?” and “Past, Present, Here Again.”

Collaborating with L.A. Master Chorale teachers Saunder Choi, Alice Kirwan Murray, and Doug Cooney, students were mentored and taught how to represent particular characters through singing and storytelling.

After writing the melodies and lyrics for an original oratorio, the vocalists of VNHS audition for featured roles and characters as they undergo vocal preparation and how to deliver the oratorio performance.

The students work alongside and perform with eight singers of the Master Chorale.

“Working with the Master Chorale was genuinely an honor,” said Samantha Rubio, who represented one of the Chicano Youths. “It was a once in a lifetime experience. Getting to send an important message, one that needed to be heard, to the community was heartfelt.”

The Vocal Department concluded their performance with the musical movement: “Past, Present, Here Again.”