This fall, I had the honor of singing with the University of Michigan Chamber Choir under the baton of Dr. Eugene Rogers. In conjunction with the University of Michigan Museum of Art exibition Oh honey…A queer reading of the collection, we performed a filmed production of Craig Hella Johnson's touching work Considering Matthew Shepard.
Johnson wrote the piece as a tribute to Matthew Shepard, a young, gay student at the University of Wyoming who in 1998 was kidnapped by strangers, beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead. Shepard’s death, along with the murder of James Byrd Jr. by white supermacists a few months earlier, led to Congress passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
The oratorio seamlessly incorporates a variety of musical styles set to a wide range of soulful and poetic texts. Passages from Matthew’s personal journal, interviews and writings from his parents, and newspaper reports are incorporated throughout the work.
We began rehearsing just a month before filming the fully-staged production. The film was stage directed by the acclaimed Matt Kunkel, who conducted several rehearsals over zoom. Emmy-award winning film producer Bob Berg was in charge of all things video. This piece was heart-wrenching to dissect, and I am extremely proud of the work we did. I am touched to share Matthew's story.