Choral Music Comes to Vivid, Stirring Life in Ad About PTSD and Homelessness in L.A.

A modern take on the melancholy Lacrimosa

It's a funny time for the high arts, which have jumped through some interesting hoops to keep fresh. 

In 2016, the Paris Opera worked with Bret Easton Ellis to give its identity some modern-man ennui. Last year, a Swedish opera house revisited Puccini's Turandot with an aria literally composed of orgasms. 

We get it. Opera can be a hard sell (even with help from Beyoncé).

But in the case of classical music, form is perhaps less important than function. While it may feel just as "highbrow" and inaccessible, we're impacted by it all the time; often, a movie we love may sweep us into a dazzling reinterpretation of a classical work without us even knowing it. 

The key to keeping the art alive, of course, is knowing it.

Maybe the L.A. Master Chorale caught on. 

Its nine-minute film, "Lacrimosa," stars Russell Coker, a veteran infantryman twice deployed to Iraq. He contributed to the script, hypnotic in its parsimony. The story itself explores PTSD and homelessness in downtown Los Angeles.

All this is set to the Lacrimosa section of Mozart's Requiem.

Like many cities that gather dreamers, L.A. has a strange composition by night. Its figurants are gripped with a weird ethereal beauty composed of cheap sparkle and the grist of hard knocks. In "Lacrimosa," you both see and feel this; give it time, and the rise of the chorus holds you captive. 

Lacrimosa is Latin for "weeping." The piece was recorded just for the film, with scoring by composer Adam Crystal and orchestral sampling from Jeff Beal. Jenny Wong, the Master Chorale's associate conductor, conducted. 

As Coker wanders a world he no longer feels connected to, the ordinary people who compose it flower in the dark, like jasmine: The dancers that open the work are krumpers James "BDash" Derrick and Kevin "Konkrete" Davis, currently competing in NBC's World of Dance. Six master choral singers feature in the film: soprano Holly Sedillos, mezzo sopranos Margaurite Mathis-Clark and Niké St. Clair, tenor Bryan Lane, and bass singers Adrien Redford Mark Edward Smith. 

But the most poignant moment happens at the end, when a little girl raises her hand to Coker's face as if she's trying to establish contact with his soul.

"Lacrimosa" was co-created by Base Design to promote the L.A. Master Chorale's 2018-19 season, which kicks off with the Mozart Requiem at September's end. Director Arnaud Uyttenhove conceived the concept after reading articles about music therapy for PTSD victims. 

"Since Base first began working with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, there have been several themes and a visual language that we created to form a foundation for every campaign," says Base art director Marie Noorbergen. 

"With this film, we wanted to explore a way to open this upscale artform of choral music to new audiences by building a true connection with the real, visceral city of L.A., and by tapping into very human emotions. We wanted to reflect that the singers of the Master Chorale are the voices of L.A. With Lacrimosa, Arnaud has taken this to a new level." 

Lacrimosa was filmed in two days, with production by Caviar in Hollywood. The L.A. Master Chorale is scheduled to perform the Mozart Requiem on Sept. 22-23 in Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Profile picture for user Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.