News & Views Thursday, August 22, 2019

Considering Matthew Shepard Monday, April 15, 2019

recommended by Jen Sper and Lora Moore, School Choral Music Specialists

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.”

leon-526583Considering Matthew Shepard by Craig Hella Johnson
Perhaps one of the most important major works of our time. The Chicago Tribune wrote: “Moving among styles ranging from Lutheran hymnody to blues to Broadway, this modern-day Passion will move many listeners to tears even as it reaches beyond tragedy to peace, understanding and forgiveness.” For the advanced choir looking to make an impact on students and community this is worth every bit of effort it requires.

Individual movements available separately:
The Innocence
This 17th movement from the major work “Considering Matthew Shepard” is planted right in the middle of the passion. Remembering a time when life was full of promise and dreaming was an activity filled with hope, a tenor soloist opens this movement wondering where all of these promising times have gone. The full choir supports the soloist with the repeated question “Where, O where?” but an answer doesn’t come.

Gently Rest (Deer Lullaby)
This is a song of comfort for Matthew’s mother – Conspirare performed this work for the interment service of Matthew at the National Cathedral where his ashes were laid to rest. The lilting 7/8 meter creates a feeling of rocking, of cradling. The violin solo represents a halo of light and took its original inspiration from the profoundly beautiful violin solo in “Erbarme dich” from Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

leon-531141Deer Song
Four movements from the end of the “Passion” section of “Considering Matthew Shepard” we hear from a deer. It has been well established that Matt loved the outdoors and it is fitting that a deer should sing “All night I lay there beside you, I cradled your pain in my care.” The women sing this delicate text accompanied by three soprano soloists who bring the breeze and the hope of redemption. Established that Matt loved the outdoors and it is fitting that a deer should sing “All night I lay there beside you, I cradled your pain in my care.” The women sing this delicate text accompanied by three soprano soloists who bring the breeze and the hope of redemption.

Meet Me Here
As the first movement of the Epilogue, here is movement number 30 from the major work “Considering Matthew Shepard.” This is the singers and the listeners first chance to begin the healing process. To “meet me where the old fence ends and the horizon begins.” We are reminded that “There’s a balm in the silence,” “There’s a joy in the singing,” and “We’ll sing on through the darkness.” This is music that easily stands alone from the major work and lifts all our spirits in every context.

leon-514784All of Us
Described as “brilliant” and “heartfelt,” this is the final movement “Considering Matthew Shepard.” With elements of hymnody, American folk and gospel music, this single movement will allow mixed choruses everywhere to come to understand and be lifted up by this powerful music.

About the Authors:
Jen Sper has been with Stanton’s since 2006. A former middle school and high school choral director, she holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. An active choral singer and accompanist throughout the Central Ohio area, she also enjoys good food, running (to counteract the good food…) and the Muppets.

Lora Moore joined the Stanton’s choral staff in July 2018. A former middle school and high school director of 32 years, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Choral Music from Capital University and a Master’s of Arts in Choral Music from The Ohio State University. Currently she is a church choir director, operates a private voice/piano studio and is active as a clinician and accompanist. During the off hours, Lora enjoys scouting out new day trips in Ohio to balance what her budget allows for her frequent trips to New York City to visit family and take in a Broadway show or two!

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