Preview: Spring Choir Concert to combine animation and music


Mu, the main character in Palo Alto High School’s Spring Concert animations, looks up to the sky in hope for rain, holding his wilted plant. The animation was made by a Serbian artist named Nenad Kostic and the story was written by choral director Michael Najar. “I got an animator from Serbia named Nenad and we have been working for the last month and a half,” Najar said.

Kasmira Lada and Nathan Jiang

With a goal of illustrative storytelling, Palo Alto High School’s Choirs plans to intertwine music and animation in its Spring Concert at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the school’s Performing Arts Center.

This concert’s central theme is the conservation of water, and all of the songs will revolve around this idea. 

Michael Najar, the choral director at Paly, said the focus on the concept of water and conservation is what holds these different songs together.

“They’re all essentially songs that revolve around our relationship with water,” Najar said. “We find themes, and we try to interlace them.”

According to Najar, a small animation story will be playing on two television screens while the singers bring a diverse soundtrack to the audience.

 “I wrote a story based upon our music selections, I put it up on Upwork, and I said ‘I need an animator, who’s interested?’” Najar said.

Vit Do is a sophomore who sings in Spectrum, a smaller and more advanced group consisting of Altos and Sopranos. According to Do, the concert is unique because of the animations and technology used.

“In most past concerts, each group sung a portion and that’s it,” Do said. “This time, we have TV’s on the side to illustrate a story.”

Najar hired Serbian animator and artist Nenad Kostic to provide the animations about a creature called Mu who is on a search for water.

“It [the story] is about a character named Mu, who has a special plant that they love, and Mu has to take care of this plant while being in a world that is challenged with water,” Najar said. 

Najar said the songs aligning with the animations would be very diverse in genres but would hopefully be tied together by a common theme. 

“It’s a diverse group of music; from pop to classical to musical theater, many different genres,” Najar said. “There is a Peruvian song that is a prayer for water, there is a song from an Oakland-based pop duo named Tune Yards that’s about being a child living in an urban landscape where it’s difficult to be called Water Fountain. We are also singing a piece by Bach.” 

According to sophomore Ella Hwang, who is also in the Spectrum choir, her group is singing three separate songs coinciding with the animations. 

“We are singing ‘Rainfall,’ ‘El Rio’ and ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’,” Hwang said. “My favorite piece is ‘Rainfall’ because I think it’s really pretty and I really enjoy singing it in class.”

Najar and Hwang said there were a few challenges that the choir had to overcome to ensure a smooth production.

“A lot of people aren’t available to meet after school at certain times because sports and other commitments may get in the way,” Hwang said. 

According to Najar, most of the challenges were with hiring an animator, figuring out how to display the animations, and racing against the clock. 

“Never enough time, never enough money, that’s always the way,” Najar said. “It’s a real tight wire to walk because there’s so many things to balance, but that’s cool.”

Despite the challenges, Hwang said that choir is a fun way to disconnect and enjoy the experience of music.

“I enjoy it [choir] just because it’s a fun community and a relaxing class that doesn’t take as much energy,” Hwang said. “At the end of the day on Tuesdays I really look forward to going to the class.” 

Do said the community and atmosphere were what made her fall in love with choir.

“I’ve met so many great people and it’s just a great way to bond through music,” Do said. “You get to be in this comfortable space where you can work on your skills but also admire other people’s talent.”

According to Do, the sense of community really came together with the pieces for the Spring Concert.

“The last piece in the set is ‘Man in the Mirror’ and it’s really great to see all the seniors singing and seeing everybody together for it,” Do said.

The Spring Choir Concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available for purchase at