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Concert work: Considering Matthew Shepard

On Tuesday, October 6, 1998, at approximately 11:45 p.m., twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard, a gay college student attending the University of Wyoming, was lured into a truck by two other young men, driven out into the country around Laramie, Wyoming, brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die.

On June 17 and 18, almost 25 years after Matthew’s death, the Halifax Camerata Singers will present Considering Matthew Shepard, a concert work telling his story.

Camerata is Nova Scotia’s premier chamber choir, and has thrilled audiences on tour, in recordings, and with an eclectic repertoire of choral masterpieces, including commissions by many of Canada’s leading choral composers.This concert steps outside of the choir’s usual format.It is a single work, as opposed to a concert of various types of music, and the work is semi-staged.Our long time, and soon to be retired, Artistic Director Jeff Joudrey has this to say about the work:

“At this time in history, with hate crimes on the rise and with levels of intolerance so prevalent in everyday life, it was important for me to program Considering Matthew Shepard.  In spite of its subject matter, Considering Matthew Shepard is a work about hope, resilience, and ultimately love.   When I was struggling on whether a piece about a hate crime taking place in 1998 in the United States, would be relevant to a Nova Scotia audience, I met with a few members of Camerata who self-identified as members of the 2LBGTQ community and asked them their thoughts. I wanted their perspective. It was their encouragement that led me to ultimately program CMS as my last concert before I retire as Artistic Director of Camerata. I feel proud to leave with Matthew’s story being part of my legacy.  That said:” 

We need to issue a content warning:  this performance contains references to and implied depictions of homophobia, violence, and murder.

This work speaks to all of this in a mixture of musical styles, from Gregorian chant to polyphonic choral writing, and even a hot Blues number. It speaks to a myriad of reactions to Matthew’s death, and the need to recognise, still today, the value of human life and the atrocity of taking that life away for the crime of being “different”. In a time when, here in Halifax a few short weeks ago, a couple of Pride flags were burned, we all need to recognise the need for tolerance, inclusion, and yes, love for each other. As one chorister has said so eloquently, “For me, this piece is a lot about a community of people grappling [with] what it means to have witnessed this atrocity.” We all need to bear witness.

Performances: Saturday June 17 at 7:30 pm and Sunday June 18 at 2:00 pm, at St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax. Tickets are available at TicketHalifax or at the door.