Inspired by the 1998 murder of a young gay man in Wyoming, Craig Hella Johnson composed Considering Matthew Shepard, a fusion oratorio. Conspirare premiered the work in 2016 and later toured the country with performances. Since then, the composition has been performed by more than 30 choirs around the world and selected songs are sung by high school and college choirs, sharing the work’s message of compassion and understanding. Collaborating with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Conspirare continues to offer artistic and technical assistance to choirs to continue to spread the work’s anti-hate message which is more relevant than ever.

About Considering Matthew Shepard

This three-part fusion oratorio speaks with a fresh and bold voice, incorporating a variety of musical styles seamlessly woven into a unified whole. Johnson sets a wide range of poetic and soulful texts by poets including Hildegard of Bingen, Lesléa Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, and Rumi. Passages from Matt’s personal journal, interviews and writings from his parents Judy and Dennis Shepard, newspaper reports, and additional texts by Johnson and Browne are poignantly appointed throughout the work.

Conspirare’s 2-CD recording of Considering Matthew Shepard debuted at #4 on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart in 2016. Audiences describe this work as “brilliant,” “powerful,” “innovative,” “dazzling,” and “gripping.” The Bay Area Reporter wrote “it has the richness, depth and complexity to compel repeated hearing, and the power to get you the first time out,” and from The Washington Post: “’Considering Matthew Shepard’ demonstrates music’s capacity to encompass, transform and transcend tragedy. Powerfully cathartic, it leads us from horror and grief to a higher understanding of the human condition, enabling us to endure.”

“Matt Shepard and his story have led me on an inspiring, challenging and deeply meaningful journey that I continue to this day. In composing Considering Matthew Shepard  I wanted to create, within a musical framework, a space for reflection, consideration and unity around his life and legacy.”

– Craig Hella Johnson, composer

Upcoming Performances

Make sure to register your performance so we can include it on this listing.

Isabel Voices (Kingston, Ontario, Canada) March 16, 2024
The NC State Choral Artists (Raleigh, NC) March 23, 2024
Providence Singers (Providence, RI) March 23, 2024
Denison University (Granville, OH) April 20, 2024
Concordia College Choral Program (Moorhead, MN) April 28, 2024
Anne Arundel Community College and AVAS (Arundel Vocal Arts Society) (Arnold, MC) May 17 & 19, 2024
Cantabile Choirs (Kingston, Ontario, Canada) May 25, 2024
Orlando Sings (Orlando, FL) June 1 & 2, 2023
Vocale Neuburg (Götzis, Vorarlberg, Austria) June 14, 2023 *Austrian premiere

Previous Performances

Craig Hella Johnson Conducts

April 2018

Craig Hella Johnson conducts at USC as presented by USC Voices and Visions: The Arts and Humanities Initiative, April 8, 2018. USC Visions&Voices program page

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the University of Southern California Thornton Chamber Singers in a special performance for the university community.

November 2017

Craig Hella Johnson conducts at the National Collegiate Choral Organization, 7th Biennial National Conference November 3, 2017

March 2017

Craig Hella Johnson with Conspirare singers Kathlene Ritch, Laura Mercado-Wright Matt Alber, David Farwig in a regional premiere with Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera. Gallagher Theatre at Xavier University, March 4 -5.

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the UGA Hugh Hodgson Singers at the University of Georgia School of Music. March 18.

Craig Hella Johnson conducts the Texas State Chorale and VocaLibre. March 30.

Additional Performances

2023

Avanti Chamber Singers (St. Catherine’s, Ontario, Canada) February 11, 2023
Arts Chorale and University Choir (Marquette, MI) February 21, 2023
The Holland Chorale (Grand Rapids, MI) February 25, 2023 & (Holland, MI) February 26, 2023
Western Oregon University Choirs (Monmouth, OR) March 3, 2023
Polymnia Choral Society (Melrose, MA) March 6, 2023
Reprise (Fort Mill, SC) March 11, 2023
University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory Singers (Prairie Village, KS) March 17, 2023 & (Kansas City, MO) March 18, 2023
Choral Arts Northwest (Kenmore, WA) March 18, 2023 & (Edmonds, WA), March 19, 2023
Davidson College Chorale (Davidson, NC) March 24, 2023
Bloomsburg University Choirs & Choral Society of NEPA (Bloomsburg, PA) April 1, 2023, (Summit, PA) April 15, 2023, & (Wilkes-Barre, PA) April 16, 2023
UVA University Singers (Charlottesville, VA) April 14, 2023
Fountain Street Church Oratorio Choir (Grand Rapids, MI) April 15, 2023
Avanti Chamber Singers (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada) April 22 & 23, 2023
Kulshan Chorus (Bellingham, WA) May 20, 2023
Da Camera Singers (Greenfield, MA) May 21, 2023
Emmanuel Choir (Baltimore, MD) June 4, 2023
Halifax Camerata (St. Andrews United Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia) June 17 & 18, 2023
Dakota Pro Musica (Bismarck, ND) October 5 & 6, 2023
Spire Chamber Ensemble (Kansas City, MO)  October 6 & 7, 2023
The Stonewall Chorale (Bronx, NY) October 6, 2023
Bemidji Symphony Orchestra (Bemidji, MN) October 8, 2023
Soundstream New Music (Adelaide, South Australia) October 12-14, 2023
Springfield Contemporary Theatre, Inc. (Springfield, MO) October 12 & 13, 2023
Monash University Choral Society (Clayton, VIC, Australia) October 13
Carolina Master Chorale and The Theatre of the Republic (Myrtle Beach, SC) October 14 & 15, 2023
First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Chancel Choir (Dallas, TX) October 21, 2023
Cleveland Chamber Choir (Cleveland, OH) October 21 & 22, 2023
Coro Vocati (Atlanta, GA) October 22
Choral Artistry (Naples, FL) October 22, 2023
Temple University Concert Choir (Philadelphia, PA) October 22, 2023
Mount Carmel Church Adult Choir (Milwaukee, WI) October 22, 2023
Lafayette Master Chorale (West Lafayette, IN) October 29, 2023
Winston-Salem Symphony Chorus (Winston-Salem, NC) October 29, 2023
Vokalensemble Luzern (Lucerne, Switzerland) November 11 & 12, 2023
Durlacher Kantorei (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany) November 12, 2023
Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA) November 18, 2023
Vandaleers Concert Choir (Moscow, Idaho) December 2, 2023

2022

Salt Lake Choral Artists (Salt Lake City, UT) February 19, 2022
Broad Cove Chorale Unicorn Singers (Norwell, MA) April 9 & 10, 2022
Choral Artistry (Fort Myers, FL) April 10, 2022
Bob Cole Chamber Choir (Long Beach, CA) April 22, 2022
Creighton University (Lincoln, NE) April 28, 2022
Chicago Choral Artists (Chicago, IL) April 28, 2022 & (River Forest, IL) April 29, 2022
Robert Moody Presents the Orchestra Unplugged: Considering Matthew Shepard  (Memphis, TN) May 5 & 6, 2022
Frostburg State University (Frostburg, MD) May 6 & 7, 2022 and (Baltimore, MD) May 8, 2022
University of New Hampshire Chamber Singers and Vocal Arts Project (Durham, NH) May 5 & 7, 2022
The Singers (Saint Michael, MN) May 14, 2022
INNOVAtheatre (Middletown, OH) June 3-5, 2022
Scomodo Voce Singers (Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia) June 4 & 11, 2022
Umeri (Des Moines, IA) June 4, 2022
The Emmanuel Choir (Baltimore, MD) June 12, 2022
WDR Rundfunkchor (Cologne, NRW, Germany) July 1, 2022
Berliner Cappella e.V. (Berlin, Germany) July 2, 2022
Trinity Church Wall Street (New York, NY) September 15-17, 2022
Arkansas State University Chamber Singers (Jonesboro, AK) October 7 & 9, 2022

2021

Charlotte Master Chorale  September 30, 2021 & October 3, 2021 (Charlotte, NC), October 2, 2021 (Asheville, NC)
Bloomington Chamber Singers (Bloomington, IN) October 9 & October 10, 2021
Dessoff Choirs (New York, NY) Nov. 6, 2021
University of West Florida (Pensacola, Florida) Nov. 19-20, 2021

2020

Western Illinois University Singers (Macomb, IL) January, 2020

2019

Western Illinois University Singers (Macomb, IL) November, 2019

2017

(November) John Dickson conducted the Louisiana State University A Capella Choir for a performance at the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO).

(October) The European premiere of Conspirare Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard is scheduled for  October 21, 2017 under the baton of Maestro Simon Halsey at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona.

Conspirare Performance History
September 2019

Command Encore Performance in the Pavilion in Chicago, IL, presented by The Ravinia Festival
Official Site

2018 National Tour

Performance at the Martin Theatre in Chicago, IL, presented by The Ravinia Festival

Performance at Festival Concert Hall, Fargo, ND. Presented as part of NDSU Choral Symposium Concerts

Performances in Los Angeles, CA at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, presented in association with Chris Issacson Presents
Click here for program PDF

February 2018

Performance at the Moody Performance Hall, presented by Dallas Museum of Art/Arts & Letters Live
Official Site

Performance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, Nebraska
In partnership with Abendmusik

Performance at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, Oxford, MS
Official Site

Performance at the Mannoni  Performing Arts Center, Hattiesburg, MS

February 2017

Taping at Austin’s Moody Theatre for PBS special in partnership with KLRU. Now Airing Nationwide.

Performance at Berklee College of Music, Symphony Hall, Boston

January/February 2017

Performances at Rudder Theatre, Texas A&M University

April 2016

By exclusive arrangement, composer and conductor Craig Hella Johnson caps off his week-long residency with the Harvard University Holden Choruses with a Considering Matthew Shepard performance in Sanders Theatre. Craig Hella Johnson, Conductor.

February 2016

Semi-staged world premiere performances in Austin, TX, at WACDA Conference in Pasadena, CA, and at  First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Recording session in Goshen, IN for Harmonia Mundi.

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, 2014 (documentary screening 1/31/2016): Filmmaker Michele Josue. Co-sponsored by Austin Film Society

June 2014

Workshop performance for the “comPassion” festival, Austin, TX. In this workshop version, Lesléa Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard and Daniel Ladinsky’s rendering of Hafiz’s My Heart is an Unset Jewel  were prominently featured and sung by soloists and the ensemble. Featuring Conspirare singers Cameron Beauchamp, Dashon Burton, Dann Coakwell, Melissa Givens, Estelí Gomez, Carr Hornbuckle, Jos Milton, John Proft, and Kathlene Ritch. With slam poet Lacey Roop.

Collaborators

Authors

Michael Dennis BrownePoet and Co-Librettist 

Lesléa NewmanPoet

Production

Rod Caspers, Co-Producer and Co-Director 

Elliott Forrest, Co-Director and Projection Designer

Robert Harlan, Technical Director

Viera Buzgova, Stage Manager

Nomad Sound, Audio

Supporters

Conspirare wishes to thank our supporters who have given $500 or more to support the production of Considering Matthew Shepard.

  • Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation
  • Anonymous (2)
  • James Arth
  • Joyce & Ken Beck
  • Bill Bednar
  • Jeremy Bencken
  • Mark Bierner
  • Ginger & Michael Blair
  • Patti Troth & Richard Black
  • The Brimble Family, One Skye Foundation
  • Steve Brister
  • Chris Bussell
  • Margaret Murray-Miller & Carl Caricari
  • Chris & J. Dennis Cavner
  • Patricia & John Cherico
  • Catherine Clark
  • Fran & Larry Collmann
  • Eric Copper
  • Katelena Hernandez Cowles & James Cowles
  • Mary Crouch
  • Danna & Crutch Crutchfield
  • Mela Sarajane Dailey & Peter Bay
  • Carol & Chris Elms
  • Fetzer Institute
  • Sandy & Bill Fivecoat
  • Mary Nell Frucella
  • Evelyn & Rick Gabrillo
  • Karen & Paul Galindo
  • Dee Garcia
  • Glenda Goehrs
  • Cynthia Gonzales
  • Deena Graham
  • Danny Hamilton & Paul Hilliard
  • Lara & Robert Harlan
  • Richard Hartgrove & Gary Cooper
  • Jordan Herman
  • Marisa I. Hormel
  • Jack Leifer & Carr Hornbuckle
  • Jim & Mary Hornbuckle
  • Gary Jacobson
  • Beth & Greg Judd
  • Trish & Robert Karli
  • Kathleen Kinney
  • Tina & Dale Knobel
  • Angie & Steve Larned
  • Eric Leibrock & Ellen Justice
  • Cindy Libera
  • Life in the City
  • Emily Little
  • Alaire & Thomas Lowry
  • Thomas Lukens
  • Lee Manford & Casey Blass
  • Janet McCullar
  • Ruth & Bob McGregor
  • Sara McIntosh
  • Vance McMahan
  • Kathryn & Dave McNeely
  • Stefanie Moore & Todd Keister
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Linda & Paul Parrish
  • Nancy Quinn & Thomas Driscoll
  • Linda & Robert Ramsey
  • Susan & Jack Robertson
  • Linda Rowald & George Brown
  • Dan Seriff
  • Nancy Scanlan
  • Elizabeth & Duff Stewart
  • Bernadette Tasher
  • Kerry Tate
  • Sandi Aitken & Bob Tomlinson
  • Don Trapp
  • Jane & John Valenstein
  • Johanna & Mitch Vernick
  • Joni Wallace
  • Kathleen & Jim Wicoff
  • Julia & Patrick Willis
  • James Wood
Press

Interviews

Articles/Reviews

What People Are Saying
Accolades

“Out there in the audience we knew we were experiencing something lifechanging – something beyond beautiful. Something timeless and precious. Something to be remembered the rest of our lives.” – Glenda Goehrs, audience member

Considering Matthew Shepard is by far the most intricate, beautiful and unyielding artistic response to this notorious anti-gay hate crime.” – Jason Marsden, Executive Director, Matthew Shepard Foundation

“[A] powerful message of transformation and love. Brilliant!” – Vance Y. George, Director Emeritus, San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Considering Matthew Shepard is, for all its rich range of text and musical language, most simply an act of love.” – Shawn Kirchner, composer

“A study in the human condition, our dark side and the light… powerfully important” – Christopher Cross, musician

Considering Matthew Shepard offers up a unique chance brew of compassion, sorrow and even joy at a level of sophistication one rarely experiences.” – Gregory Hinton, author, filmmaker

“To say that I was moved would be an understatement…” – Peter Bay, Music Director and Conductor, Austin Symphony

“Craig Hella Johnson’s simple eloquence in making a tragedy transcendent is felt in every moment of this piece.” – Evans Mirageas, Artistic Director, Cincinnati Opera

“I was both deeply moved and very impressed… the emotional impact, the highest level of performance artistry, and [Craig Hella Johnson’s] mastery of every element of compositional craft.” – Donald Grantham, Composer, Professor, Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin

“One of the most original and innovative American works of the past several decades” – Robert Kyr, composer

“It’s right up there with playing ‘Sisters of Mercy’ with Leonard [Cohen] in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam looking out at 3000 lighters waving… This is an important work that now has its wings.” Mitch Watkins, guitarist

“In this stunning masterwork, Craig Hella Johnson has achieved not only an elegant tribute to Matthew Shepard, but he has succeeded – like Philomena in Greek mythology – in transmuting vast pain into profound beauty.” – Dorothy Walters, author

Audience Comments

“This performance stabbed me with the beauties of healing, love, and unified creation. This work lifts us to deal with imponderables and reminds us that human potentiality is the least understood and most squandered resource on earth. Too often we attach value to things man does, but not what man is.  We have national anthems, but no anthems for humanity. Man’s achievements and power are heralded, but the preciousness of life is unsung. No longer… thanks to the artistry of Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare.”

“This work is a prism for refracting deep meaning and truth. It celebrates the noblest faculties of human life – the ability to share sorrow, create hope, and embrace human oneness and act upon it.”

“Thank you for digging so, so deep and sharing it with us. It awakened our most tender, troubled and hopeful places. Great art does that – holds the paradox, makes it visible – but it takes courage and determination to stay there until it’s rooted in our bones.  I can tell it is part of you forever, now transformed, and I’m thankful that it is now part of me, as well.”

“The show was a study in the human condition, our dark side and the light.”

“Words and music have conveyed the agony of an innocent boy enduring the irrational hatred of those who tortured and killed him. It is the most outstanding Conspirare concert I have experienced – and I have been to almost all. Thank you and I hope the whole world experiences this incredible work of art.”

“I felt the pew shaking and realized it was my husband next to me trying to suppress his sobs. Wow!”

LGBTQ+ Youth Resources