Choir Concert: Considering Matthew Shepard
- Hass Center, Mitrani Hall
On Saturday, April 1, a chorus of nearly 100 singers from Commonwealth University-Bloomsburg and the Choral Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) will come together to present “Considering Matthew Shepard.” Additionally, three Bloomsburg music majors will join with five professional instrumentalists for the performance.
The joint chorus will perform in Mitrani Hall at Bloomsburg University at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. The choirs will also perform this piece on Saturday, April 15, at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Clarks Summit and on Sunday, April 16, at 4 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre.
The piece is composed by Craig Hella Johnson and features texts by Michael Dennis Browne, and Lesléa Newman.
“Considering Matthew Shepard” tells the story of the 1998 hate-crime murder of a gay college student in Wyoming who eventually became the namesake for federal hate-crime legislation. In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to expand the 1969 hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by one’s actual or perceived gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
With the fence on which he was tied, beaten, and left to die as the central image in “Considering Matthew Shepard,” the performance challenges the audience to find, pilgrimage to, and tear down their own mental “fences”—the arbitrary and un-noticed lines we draw to understand the world and separate us from others, be them based on sexuality, gender, religion, social class, and more.
The music of “Considering Matthew Shepard” is a celebration of diversity, moving easily among a variety of recognizable, tuneful, and easy-to-understand styles including country, folk, blues, gospel, hymnody, and multi-cultural.
“Considering Matthew Shepard” is presented by The Choral Society of NEPA, the Bloomsburg University Concert Choir, and the Bloomsburg University Women’s Choral Ensemble. Commonwealth University faculty members Alan Baker and Amelia Garbisch are co-directors on the CMS project. Baker will conduct the performances.