press release: Conspirare’s “Considering matthew shepard” | 9/16/2018

Aug. 29, 2018

Part of the new “Perspectives Series”

MIDLAND, Mich. – Tickets are on sale for Midland Center for the Arts’ engagement of Conspirare’s Grammy-nominated three-part oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shepard,” on stage Sept. 16 at 3 p.m.

Conspirare’s most recent recording and touring project, Considering Matthew Shepard debuted at number four on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart, is an evocative and compassionate musical response to the murder of Matthew Shepard. On October 6, 1998, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, and left to die, in what became an infamous act of brutality, and one of America’s most notorious anti-gay hate crimes. Shepard’s murder ultimately led to the creation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and provided a catalyst for legislation that expanded the definition of a hate crime to include sexual orientation. In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Composer Craig Hella Johnson had a profoundly personal reaction to both the murder and its resonance. The Shepard family and Foundation engaged with Johnson in the creation of the work, and allowed the use of fragments from Shepard’s personal diary.

Considering Matthew Shepard transports listeners through a tapestry of musical textures and idioms in a poignant concert experience inspiring hope, compassion, and empowerment. The Washington Post called the work “powerfully cathartic,” and wrote “Like Bach’s large-scale choral works, this spellbinding piece draws on many styles masterfully juxtaposed, though Johnson’s sources are the American vernacular. A Prologue, Passion and Epilogue … combine spoken text, cowboy song, American hymnody and popular song, spirituals, jazz and dazzling polyphony, all woven into a seamless tapestry. The impact is immediate, profound and, at times, overwhelming.”

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the concert with Center Stage Choirs’ Camerata choral ensemble joining Conspirare for one song.

 Tickets for Considering Matthew Shepard are $37 and can be purchased on or through the Center Ticket Office, 800-523-7649.

Local community groups including Perceptions, GLAD, Family and Children’s Services, and Equality Michigan will have resource tables and representatives in the lobby before and after the concert.

There will be a talkback opportunity immediately after the concert with composer and conductor Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare artists.

Other events in this Perspectives Series

The Perspectives Series brings together community partners to open doors to conversation on a variety of topics through education, storytelling, and creativity. This iteration of the series focuses on LGBTQ history and issues in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. The Center partnered with Perceptions, GLAD, Family and Children’s Services of Mid-Michigan and the Midland High School GSA to design a full slate of programming utilizing different art forms to facilitate better connection and conversation within the Great Lakes Bay region.

Understanding LGBTQ Communities with Equality Michigan takes place in the Lecture Room of Midland Center for the Arts Aug. 28, 7 – 9 p.m. Join Equality Michigan for an informative discussion designed to give participants an introduction into LGBTQ communities. Free event.

 “Love, Simon” will be screened at the Bullock Creek High School auditorium Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. Everyone deserves a great love story, but for Simon it’s complicated: no one knows he’s gay and he doesn’t know who the anonymous classmate is that he’s fallen for online. Sponsored by Family and Children’s Services of Mid-Michigan. Free admission.

 “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” will be screened and followed by a panel discussion in the Lecture Room of Midland Center for the Arts on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. Award-winning, critically acclaimed documentary feature film that tells the story of Matthew Shepard’s life through his friends, family and those who were close to him throughout the years. Free admission.

 Here:Say Storytelling presents: Stories We Don’t Share in the Saints & Sinners Lounge of Midland Center for the Arts Sept. 14 at 7:30 – 10 p.m. Everybody has a story to tell. What would happen if we started telling our stories again? Here:Say is a monthly storytelling event based in Traverse City. Join invited storytellers from our local community to hear funny and painful stories alike about identity, acceptance, advocacy, dissent … the stories we don’t tell each other. Free event.