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23: Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard died 23 years ago today. Considering Matthew Shepard Facebook Post announcing concert in Bloomington, Indiana.

Another year has ticked by.

Another moment to pause and reflect on Matthew Shepard.

One remarkable thing about Matthew Shepard is that he continues to be present in society – I was scrolling through Facebook last week and I noticed that Indiana University Credit Union (my primary bank in America) is sponsoring the Bloomington Chamber Singers.

Their concert last weekend?

Considering Matthew Shepard

In October of 1998, Matthew Shepard, a young, gay student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a lonely field under a blanket of stars. Five days later, when Matt passed away, the world was watching. Approaching the eve of the 20th anniversary, Craig Hella Johnson has responded with his first concert-length work, Considering Matthew Shepard.

Led from the piano by Johnson, Considering Matthew Shepard showcases the award-winning artistry of Conspirare’s singers with a chamber ensemble of renowned instrumentalists. This three-part fusion oratorio speaks with a fresh and 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.

Considering Matthew Shepard debuted at #4 on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart after Harmonia Mundi released the 2-CD Set recording in mid-September, 2016. Album page Audiences describe this work as “brilliant,” “powerful,” “innovative,” “dazzling,” and “gripping.” The Bay Area Reporter wrote “it has the richness, depth and complexity to compel repeated hearing, and the power to get you the first time out,” and from the The Washington Post: “’Considering Matthew Shepard’” demonstrates music’s capacity to encompass, transform and transcend tragedy. Powerfully cathartic, it leads us from horror and grief to a higher understanding of the human condition, enabling us to endure.”

Considering Matthew Shepard joins the ranks of many significant artistic responses to Matthew Shepard’s legacy. Most noteworthy is The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theater Project, which has been seen by more than 30 million people. Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation calls Considering Matthew Shepard “by far the most intricate, beautiful and unyielding artistic response to this notorious anti-gay hate crime.”

Matthew Shepard’s story must never be forgotten.

The fact that Matthew continues to be remembered so vividly, so brilliantly, and in so many ways is remarkable.

Yet at my core, what I remember is my visceral reaction to the initial shock, the out of body feeling – crawling into my closet at home in Bloomington and crying.

R.I.P. Matthew “Matt” Wayne Shepard – *December 1, 1976; †October 12, 1998


For historical reference, see 2004200520062007200820092010201120122013,  201420152016201720182019, 2020 or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

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