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Considering Matthew Shepard

“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.”

Craig Hella Johnson, composer

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.


STAGED VERSION, February 2017

ARTS IN CONTEXT STILLS, February-March 2017

WORLD PREMIERE, February 2016


Craig Hella Johnson with Conspirare

September 2019

Command Encore Performance in the Pavilion in Chicago, IL, presented by The Ravinia Festival
Tickets on sale now 

2018 National Tour

2018 National Tour 

Performance at the Martin Theatre in Chicago, IL, presented by The Ravinia Festival
Tickets on sale May 10, 2018

Performance at Festival Concert Hall, Fargo, ND. Presented as part of NDSU Choral Symposium Concerts
Tickets on sale now for October 12, 2018

Performances in Los Angeles, CA at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, presented in association with Chris Issacson Presents, June 15 and 16, 2018

Program (download)

February 2018

Performance at the Moody Performance Hall, presented by Dallas Museum of Art/Arts & Letters Live
Tickets on sale now; order online or call 214-922-1818

Performance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, Nebraska; Info and tickets for the Lied Center concert
In partnership with Abendmusik

Performance at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, Oxford, MS; Tickets and more information

Performance at the Mannoni  Performing Arts Center, Hattiesburg, MS; Tickets and more information

matthew-shepard-berklee-thumbFebruary 2017

Taping at Austin’s Moody Theatre for PBS special in partnership with KLRU. Video trailer / KLRU Press Release 01.11.17

Performance at Symphony Hall, Boston
Berklee College of Music Press Release 11.16.16

January/February 2017

Performances at Rudder Theatre, Texas A&M University Info and tickets for the A&M concerts

April 2016

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. 

February 2016

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. Program page

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, 2014 (documentary screening 1/31/2016): Filmmaker Michele Josue. Co-sponsored by Austin Film Society 

June 2014

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. Program page 

Craig Hella Johnson Conducts

April 2018

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

November 2017

Craig Hella Johnson conducts at the National Collegiate Choral Organization, 7th Biennial National Conference November 3, 2017 NCCO7 Program Page

March 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. program page

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the UGA Hugh Hodgson Singers at the University of Georgia School of Music. March 18. program page

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the Texas State Chorale and VocaLibre. March 30. program page

Additional Performances 

April 2018

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the University of Southern California Thornton Chamber Singers in a special performance for the university community. 

November 2017

John Dickson conducted the Louisiana State University A Capella Choir for a performance at the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO). 

October 2017

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.  More details can be found at


Michael Dennis BrownePoet and Co-Librettist 

Lesléa NewmanPoet 


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.

  • Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation
  • Anonymous (2)
  • James Arth
  • Joyce & Ken Beck
  • Bill Bednar
  • Jeremy Bencken
  • Mark Bierner
  • Ginger & Michael Blair
  • Patti Troth & Richard Black
  • The Brimble Family, One Skye Foundation
  • Steve Brister
  • Chris Bussell
  • Margaret Murray-Miller & Carl Caricari
  • Chris & J. Dennis Cavner
  • Patricia & John Cherico
  • Catherine Clark
  • Fran & Larry Collmann
  • Eric Copper
  • Katelena Hernandez Cowles & James Cowles
  • Mary Crouch
  • Danna & Crutch Crutchfield
  • Mela Sarajane Dailey & Peter Bay
  • Carol & Chris Elms
  • Fetzer Institute
  • Sandy & Bill Fivecoat
  • Mary Nell Frucella
  • Evelyn & Rick Gabrillo
  • Karen & Paul Galindo
  • Dee Garcia
  • Glenda Goehrs
  • Cynthia Gonzales
  • Deena Graham
  • Danny Hamilton & Paul Hilliard
  • Lara & Robert Harlan
  • Richard Hartgrove & Gary Cooper
  • Jordan Herman
  • Marisa I. Hormel
  • Jack Leifer & Carr Hornbuckle
  • Jim & Mary Hornbuckle
  • Gary Jacobson
  • Beth & Greg Judd
  • Trish & Robert Karli
  • Kathleen Kinney
  • Tina & Dale Knobel
  • Angie & Steve Larned
  • Eric Leibrock & Ellen Justice
  • Cindy Libera
  • Life in the City
  • Emily Little
  • Alaire & Thomas Lowry
  • Thomas Lukens
  • Lee Manford & Casey Blass
  • Janet McCullar
  • Ruth & Bob McGregor
  • Sara McIntosh
  • Vance McMahan
  • Kathryn & Dave McNeely
  • Stefanie Moore & Todd Keister
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Linda & Paul Parrish
  • Nancy Quinn & Thomas Driscoll
  • Linda & Robert Ramsey
  • Susan & Jack Robertson
  • Linda Rowald & George Brown
  • Dan Seriff
  • Nancy Scanlan
  • Elizabeth & Duff Stewart
  • Bernadette Tasher
  • Kerry Tate
  • Sandi Aitken & Bob Tomlinson
  • Don Trapp
  • Jane & John Valenstein
  • Johanna & Mitch Vernick
  • Joni Wallace
  • Kathleen & Jim Wicoff
  • Julia & Patrick Willis
  • James Wood
Considering Matthew Shepard

Grammy-Nominated, Best Surround Sound Album  12.06.16 press release

(Harmonia Mundi, Sept. 2016) [PIAS]harmonia mundi Press Release 08.10.16

Track list, sample clips, link to buy and more at Conspirare’s Considering Matthew Shepard album page.

Conspirare CD Release / Release Party, Press Release 08.18.16



Considering Matthew Shepard CD cover


“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!”

Michael Dennis Browneoctober-mourning-cover-200x300, collaborator-poet, libretto
Lesléa Newman, poet-author, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

Libretto available soon.




Movement 1: “Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass” from the world premiere performance, February 2016

Craig reflects on the 2014 workshop premiere of Considering Matthew Shepard followed by the Durufle Requiem

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