Stonewall offers Considering Matthew Shepard
by Linda Romano for Vocal Area Network
Posted March 20, 2023

Considering Matthew ShepardOn Saturday, March 25 at 7:30 PM, The Stonewall Chorale, the nation’s first gay and lesbian choir, will present Craig Hella Johnson’s cantata Considering Matthew Shepard at Holy Apostles Church (28th Street and 9th Avenue) in Chelsea. Considering Matthew Shepard tells the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay college student from Laramie, Wyoming, who was beaten, tortured and left to die tied to a fence in 1998.

Composer Craig Hella Johnson “wanted to create, within a musical framework, a space for reflection, consideration and unity around [Matthew’s] life and legacy.” The passion-style oratorio incorporates excerpts from Matthew Shepard’s diary, interviews with his family and friends, and news articles.

The dramatic score employs a variety of musical styles, including gospel, old-style hymns, blues and even folk, and its simple melodies will appeal to all listeners. The work has been described by The Chicago Tribune as "one of the most important major works of our time."

“I first learned of this work from one of our singers a number of years ago, and it’s been a piece I have wanted us to offer,” remarked Artistic Director Cynthia Powell. “As we approach the 25th anniversary of his murder, Matthew Shepard’s life and death must not be forgotten, and in this current atmosphere, the presentation of this work is more timely than ever.”

As Nora Isacoff (she/her/hers), a member of the alto section, shared in shared in a recent video, performing this piece has inspired her to reflect on storytelling, how stories can be a form of resistance, empowerment and solidarity, and the ways in which members of the LGBTQ+ community are grappling with how to find their place on gay history's timeline.

Based in New York City, The Stonewall Chorale is the first LGBTQ chorus in the nation, founded in 1977 in a Greenwich Village living room by “people who dig each other.” Over the span of its 46 seasons, the Chorale has become an important cultural presence in New York City performing arts, producing three concerts a year in venues that include Merkin Hall, Carnegie Hall, Church of the Ascension, Riverside Church, the Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall.

Hailed by ClassicFM as one of the “12 the best LGBTQ+ classical music ensembles around the world,” the Chorale’s repertoire ranges from great classical works to contemporary pieces by cutting-edge composers like Ricky Ian Gordon, Eric Whitacre, Chris De Blasio, Meredith Monk, Gerald Busby and Tõnu Kõrvits. In 2016 the Chorale commissioned James Bassi to create A Certain Slant of Light, a secular piece for chorus and string orchestra in honor of the group’s 40th anniversary. In 2019, the Chorale performed Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall 50, an eight-movement work co-commissioned by The Stonewall Chorale and LGBTQ+ choruses from across the U.S., including project co-founders, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. It was the largest collaboration in the history of LGBTQ choruses.

This season, the group celebrates Cynthia Powell’s 20 years as Artistic Director. A graduate of Westminster Choir College, Ms. Powell has worked with numerous musical groups in the New York metropolitan area and has conducted many major works for chorus and orchestra.

Tickets for the performance on March 25 at Holy Apostles are available online at www.stonewallchorale.org/tickets. General admission: $35 in advance; $40 at the door (subject to availability). Students/seniors: $25 in advance only.

Linda Romano handles public relations for The Stonewall Chorale.