In 2010–11, Misa de Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi Mass), a choral-orchestral work by Agustín Fernández (Professor of Composition at ICMuS) became the focal point of a major music-educational project at Instituto Laredo, a specialist music school in Cochabamba, Bolivia – an experience which had a direct influence on the personal and professional development of 220 students and teachers there.

A forerunner of this work was first produced and performed in 1978 in La Paz, Bolivia. But at that time, requests to mount the work in Cochabamba went unfulfilled, as the city lacked the infrastructure to put on a concert of this magnitude. By 2010, some of the children who had performed in the 1978 concert were now themselves professionals based at Cochabamba’s Instituto Laredo, a specialist music school. Headed by leading conductor Augusto Guzmán, they approached Fernández to request a new performance of Misa. However, the score from the original composition, deemed by Fernández to be immature, was destroyed by him in the 1990s. The group were adamant that they wanted to revive the work they claimed had been a factor in their career choice as musicians. These requests caused Fernández to reassess the significance of his earlier work, and he made the decision to compose Misa again.

The 2010 version of Misa is a new rendering of the 1978 composition, with important differences. While preserving the spirit of the earlier work, the new one resolves the latter’s imperfections through greater technical competence, and addresses questions of how Andean folk-rooted materials can coexist with post-romantic influence in a new context, making it a richer work that is much more complex and allusive.

The new Misa occupied two large choirs and a large orchestra at the Instituo Laredo for the best part of four months in 2010. The reach of the project extended deeply into the daily practice of students and teachers there. Some of the young players were challenged to acquire skills they had not possessed before. The eventual performances of the piece to several capacity audiences in large (1000+) venues were received with enthusiasm and acclaim.

Misa is now viewed as an emblem of both Instituto Laredo’s success and Cochabamba’s musical achievements. Paula Muñoz, then Culture Editor of national broadsheet Los Tiempos, stated that Misa ‘led people to rethink the participation we allow art music [to have] in our lives …. Suddenly, this art music no longer is the exclusive heirloom of the Bolivian elites; we cast off the idea that it is boring or incomprehensible or inaccessible; it becomes democratised in the act of putting itself within reach of everyone.’

Two further performances have now taken place, in Cochabamba Metropolitan Cathedral and in the Temple of Santa Ana, also in Cochabamba, and the work and performances were discussed on a Bolivian TV channel.