Considering Matthew Shepard

3:00pm, Sun, May 7 2023

  • Event Details
  • Type of event: Performance
    Start time: 3:00pm
    Venue: South Church Hall, 1052 Main St, St Johnsbury, VT
    Description: Considering Matthew Shepard

    The North Country Chorus presents "Considering Matthew Shepard" in their 74th spring concert on Saturday, May 6, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 7, at 3 pm. Both concerts are at South Church Hall on the campus of St. Johnsbury Academy.
    Admission is by donation.
    Alan Rowe, head of the Academy's music department, directs the 67 singers in the community chorus and an eight-piece chamber ensemble.

    Matthew Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who, in October of 1998, was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. Eighteen hours later, Shepard was discovered by a bicyclist. While he lay in a coma in the hospital on total life support, candlelight vigils were held in countries around the world. Six days later, Matthew Shepard succumbed to the trauma to his brain.

    Craig Hella Johnson composed "Considering Matthew Shepard" to explore his life, death, and legacy. Among the many artistic responses to this hate crime, this three-part fusion oratorio is widely regarded as "by far the most intricate, beautiful and unyielding." The work speaks with a bold voice, incorporating a variety of musical styles seamlessly woven into a unified whole. Johnson sets a wide range of poetic and soulful texts by poets including Hildegard of Bingen, Lesléa Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, and Rumi. Passages from Matt's personal journal, interviews and writings from his parents Judy and Dennis Shepard, newspaper reports and additional texts by Johnson and Browne are poignantly appointed throughout the work.

    Shepard's murder prompted hate crime legislation at both the state and federal level. In October 2009, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, commonly called the "Matthew Shepard Act."

    In this time when strife and violence related to gender and sexual identity continue to plague our culture, the North Country Chorus sings in the hope that the lessons of Matthew Shepard's story are not forgotten.