“Matt Shepard and his story have led me on an inspiring, challenging and deeply meaningful journey that I continue to this day. In composing Considering Matthew Shepard I wanted to create, within a musical framework, a space for reflection, consideration and unity around his life and legacy.”
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.”
Celebrated Grammy® award-winning Conspirare will present the work on tour in February 2018, September 2018 and October 2018. Conspirare is represented by Cadenza Artists.
Matthew Shepard’s story must never be forgotten.
Command Encore Performance in the Pavilion in Chicago, IL, presented by The Ravinia Festival
2018 National Tour
Performance at the Martin Theatre in Chicago, IL, presented by The Ravinia Festival
Performance at Festival Concert Hall, Fargo, ND. Presented as part of NDSU Choral Symposium Concerts
Performances in Los Angeles, CA at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, presented in association with Chris Issacson Presents
Click here for program PDF
Performance at the Moody Performance Hall, presented by Dallas Museum of Art/Arts & Letters Live
Performance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, Nebraska
In partnership with Abendmusik
Performance at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, Oxford, MS
Performance at the Mannoni Performing Arts Center, Hattiesburg, MS
Performance at Berklee College of Music, Symphony Hall, Boston
Performances at Rudder Theatre, Texas A&M University
By exclusive arrangement, composer and conductor Craig Hella Johnson caps off his week-long residency with the Harvard University Holden Choruses with a Considering Matthew Shepard performance in Sanders Theatre. Craig Hella Johnson, Conductor.
Semi-staged world premiere performances in Austin, TX, at WACDA Conference in Pasadena, CA, and at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Recording session in Goshen, IN for Harmonia Mundi.
Workshop performance for the “comPassion” festival, Austin, TX. In this workshop version, Lesléa Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard and Daniel Ladinsky’s rendering of Hafiz’s My Heart is an Unset Jewel were prominently featured and sung by soloists and the ensemble. Featuring Conspirare singers Cameron Beauchamp, Dashon Burton, Dann Coakwell, Melissa Givens, Estelí Gomez, Carr Hornbuckle, Jos Milton, John Proft, and Kathlene Ritch. With slam poet Lacey Roop.
Craig Hella Johnson Conducts
Craig Hella Johnson conducts at USC as presented by USC Voices and Visions: The Arts and Humanities Initiative, April 8, 2018. USC Visions&Voices program page
Craig Hella Johnson conducts at the National Collegiate Choral Organization, 7th Biennial National Conference November 3, 2017
Craig Hella Johnson with Conspirare singers Kathlene Ritch, Laura Mercado-Wright Matt Alber, David Farwig in a regional premiere with Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera. Gallagher Theatre at Xavier University, March 4 -5.
Craig Hella Johnson conducts the UGA Hugh Hodgson Singers at the University of Georgia School of Music. March 18.
Craig Hella Johnson conducts the Texas State Chorale and VocaLibre. March 30.
Craig Hella Johnson conducts the University of Southern California Thornton Chamber Singers in a special performance for the university community.
John Dickson conducted the Louisiana State University A Capella Choir for a performance at the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO).
The European premiere of Conspirare Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard is scheduled for October 21, 2017 under the baton of Maestro Simon Halsey at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona.
Michael Dennis Browne, Poet and Co-Librettist
Lesléa Newman, Poet
Rod Caspers, Co-Producer and Co-Director
Elliott Forrest, Co-Director and Projection Designer
Robert Harlan, Technical Director
Viera Buzgova, Stage Manager
Nomad Sound, Audio
Conspirare wishes to thank our supporters who have given $500 or more to support the production of Considering Matthew Shepard.
Grammy-Nominated, Best Surround Sound Album 2016
- Behind the New Work Exploring the Life and Legacy of Matthew Shepard on KUSC Blog, 06.13.18
- Considering Matthew Shepard by Patrick Welsh on Next Stop MS on MPB Radio (segment begins at minute 16:00) 02.23.18
- Friday Live Extra: Craig Hella Johnson net Nebraska; Nebraska’s PBS & NPR Stations, netnebraska.org 02.22.18
- “Brothers: A Journey in the Heart of Love and Hate” Epiphany, Gangaji Radio, gangaji.org, 02.15.17
- Craig Hella Johnson, “Inside Berklee” Podcast by Bryan Pars, berklee.edu, 01.20.17
- Considering Matthew Shepard, “Performance Today” (American Public Media), yourclassical.org, 10.11.16
- New Release: Craig Hella Johnson, interview with John Clare, WBAA (Indiana), wbaa.org, 10.11.16
- Craig Hella Johnson, composer,conductor, founder/director Conspirare, Cadenza interview, WWFM The Classical Network, 10.06.16
- Presto interview – Craig Hella Johnson on Considering Matthew Shepard by David Smith, Presto Classical, prestoclassical.co.uk, 10.04.16
- Craig Hella Johnson Interview with John C. Hughes, johnchughes.com (Choir Chat, September 2016)
- Find your entry point, with Craig Hella Johnson (interview with Ryan Guth), https://choir.ninja/ (September 2016)
- At Cincinnati’s May Festival, an Ambitious Oratorio Inspired by Tragedy, Rafael De Acha, Seen and Heard International, 05.23.19
- How ‘Matthew Shepard’ oratorio became a transcendent ‘Passion’ to fallen student, Kyle MacMillan, Chicago Sun Times, 09.20.18
- Matthew Shepard story stirs voices at BGSU, by Roger LaPointe, Sentinel-Tribune, 09.18.18
- Deeply moving ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ leaves BGSU audience at a loss for applause, by David Dupont, BG Independent News, 09.18.18
- Choirs come together to ‘Consider Matthew Shepard’, by Roger LaPointe, Sentinel-Tribune, 09.15.18
- Review: Profound truths in ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ at Ravinia, by Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, 09.13.18
- The power of ‘Considering Matthew Shepard,’ with local premiere at Ravinia, by Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, 09.11.18
- For Your Consideration: Craig Hella Johnson Plants A Fencepost To Welcome Matt Shepard by Mark Thomas Ketterson, Ravinia Backstage, 08.17.18
- Moving Pictures: Inside Considering Matthew Shepard by Elliott Forrest, Ravinia Backstage, 08.13.18
- Considering Matthew Shepard by Taylor Gates, Starry Mag, 06.22.18
- Music Review: CONSIDERING MATTHEW SHEPARD (Ford Amphitheatre), by Tony Frankel, Stage and Cinema, 06.16.18
- Weekend Picks: Diana Ross, L.A. Dance Project, ‘Matthew Shepard’ and more, Matt Cooper, Los Angeles Times, 06.14.18
- Composer Craig Hella Johnson Considers The Life of an Ordinary Boy, by Craig Byrd, Cultural Attache, 06.13.18
- Acclaimed Composer Craig Johnson Brings Matthew Shepard Oratorio to LA for Pride, by John Paul King, Los Angeles Blade, 06.08.18
- Considering Matthew Shepard: 20 Years Later, by Jenna Simeonov, Schmopera, 06.07.18
- Considering Matthew Shepard: A Beautiful Unexpected Journey, by Amin El Gamal, Ford Theatres, 05.23.18
- ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ performance illustrates themes of healing, forgiveness by Megan Swarsfager, The Daily Mississippian, 02.28.18
- ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’, vibrante canto contra la intolerancia by Cesar Lopez Rosell, el Periodico, 10.23.17
- “UGA choirs bring LGBT oratorio ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ to Atlanta Saturday” by Dallas Duncan, thegavoice.com, 03.17.17
- “Hugh Hodgson School of Music presents ‘Considering Matthew Shepard'” by Jordan Meaker, redandblack.com (Athens, GA), 03.17.17
- “Slideshow: Considering Matthew Shepard Rouses Symphony Hall” by Bryan Parys, berklee.edu, 03.10.17
- “‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ reflects beauty and hope” by Janelle Gelfand, cincinnati.com, 03.06.17
- “Vocal Arts Ensemble honors the slain Matthew Shepard with a ‘fusion oratorio’ by its artistic director” citybeat.com (Cincinnati), 03.01.17
- “A memorial to gay student killed in Wyoming” by Janelle Gelfand, cincinnati.com, 03.01.17
- “FEATURE | Musical Tributes: The Lionization Of Matthew Shepard” by Bryan Chang, musicaltoronto.org, 02.26.17
- “Vocal Arts Ensemble To Perform CONSIDERING MATTHEW SHEPARD, 3/4-5,” broadwayworld.com, 02.15.17
- “Música con aire global” by Luis López, El Norte, 02.11.17
- “Choral Work About Matthew Shepard Up For Grammy” by Andrea Shea, Here and Now, WBUR (Boston), 02.10.17
- “Power Of Music Transmutes Cruelty To Hope” by Paul E.Robinson, Classical Voice North America, 02.09.17
- “The Take, with Sue O’Connell: ‘Considering Matthew Shepard'” necn.com (New England Cable News), 02.04.17
- “A Vocal Stand: Harvard Choruses joins Symphony Hall performance of Grammy-winning composer’s ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’” by Clea Simon, Harvard Gazette, 02.01.17
- “Grammy award winning choir performs in at Texas A&M”, KBTX.com, 01.29.17
- “‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ heads to Boston’s Symphony Hall” by Loren King, 01.06.17
- “Harmonia Mundi’s Requiem for Matthew Shepard” by Jason Victor Serinus, stereophile.com, 12.10.16
- “Johnson: Considering Matthew Shepard” by Joshua Rosenblum (pdf), Critic’s Choice CD, Opera News, November 2016
- “Matthew Shepard’s Moving Story Presented in a Musical Experience at Symphony Hall” by Allen Bush, The Rainbow Times (Boston), 11.17.16
- “Turning the life of Matthew Shepard into song” by Brad Turner (Colorado Public Radio), pbs.org, 10.11.16
- “CD reviews: ‘Considering Matthew Shepard,’ 18 years later,” The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com, 10.07.16
- Considering Matthew Shepard”, Review by Simon Thompson, musicweb-international.com (October 2016)
- “A New Choral Work Was Inspired by the Death of Matthew Shepard” by Erin Blakemore, Smithsonian Magazine, smithsonian.com, 09.19.16
- “Matthew Shepard’s Life, Death And Legacy The Subject Of New Choral Work” by Brad Turner, Colorado Public Radio, 09.13.16. Includes audio: Craig Hella Johnson and Jason Marsden (Matthew Shepard Foundation) speak with Ryan Warner
- “The Passion of Matthew Shepard” by Tim Pfaff, The Bay Area Reporter, 09.08.16
- “‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ an Ode to Inclusivity and Compassion” by Patrick Castillo, WQXR.org – The Classical Music Station of NYC, 08.29.16
- “World premiere: Considering Matthew Shepard to be released Sept. 9” Windy City Times (Chicago), 08.23.16
- “Matthew Shepard’s Lesson to All” by Mark DeVoto, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, 04.04.16
- Harvard Arts blog post by Anita Lo, 03.28.16
- “Review: Conspirare’s ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’” by Luke Quinton, austin360.com / Austin American-Statesman, 02.25.16
- “New Tribute to Matthew Deemed ‘An American Classic’,” 03.02.16 blog post by Jason Marsden, Executive Director Matthew Shepard Foundation
- Interviews by Dianne Donovan with Craig Hella Johnson and Jason Marsden (Matthew Shepard Foundation) at kmfa.org
- “Light & Love: Conspirare Pays Tribute to Matthew Shepard” by Chris Johnson, Arts + Culture, 02/01/16
- “Considering Matthew Shepard: A Passion in Progress by Craig Hella Johnson” (pdf) by Cara Tasher from “Composers’ Corner,” International Choral Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 1, 1st Quarter 2015, pp. 50-53
“This performance stabbed me with the beauties of healing, love, and unified creation. This work lifts us to deal with imponderables and reminds us that human potentiality is the least understood and most squandered resource on earth. Too often we attach value to things man does, but not what man is. We have national anthems, but no anthems for humanity. Man’s achievements and power are heralded, but the preciousness of life is unsung. No longer… thanks to the artistry of Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare.”
“This work is a prism for refracting deep meaning and truth. It celebrates the noblest faculties of human life – the ability to share sorrow, create hope, and embrace human oneness and act upon it.”
“Thank you for digging so, so deep and sharing it with us. It awakened our most tender, troubled and hopeful places. Great art does that – holds the paradox, makes it visible – but it takes courage and determination to stay there until it’s rooted in our bones. I can tell it is part of you forever, now transformed, and I’m thankful that it is now part of me, as well.”
“The show was a study in the human condition, our dark side and the light.”
“Truly amazing, moving, provoking, beautiful, gorgeous, ethereal voices as always. An awareness and remembrance of this heinous occurrence.”
“Words and music have conveyed the agony of an innocent boy enduring the irrational hatred of those who tortured and killed him. It is the most outstanding Conspirare concert I have experienced – and I have been to almost all. Thank you and I hope the whole world experiences this incredible work of art.”
“I felt the pew shaking and realized it was my husband next to me trying to suppress his sobs. Wow!”