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Published July 31, 2018
Grammy-winning Conspirare, a choir inspired by the power of music to change lives, will perform during the University of Wyoming’s 20th remembrance of Matthew Shepard’s murder.
The Austin, Texas-based group will perform “Considering Matthew Shepard” Saturday, Oct. 6, in the Laramie High School (LHS) theater at 7:30 p.m. The performance is free, but ticketed. A limit of two tickets per person is available at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts box office, by calling (307) 766-6666 or going online at www.uwyo.edu/finearts. Overflow seating with monitors will be available in the LHS commons area.
A “talk-back” with panelists, including “Considering Matthew Shepard” composer Craig Hella Johnson, will follow the performance. The vocal ensemble engages singers from around the world who join forces to deliver extraordinary live musical experiences and recordings.
The performance is among events scheduled to commemorate the death of Shepard, an openly gay UW student from Casper, who was murdered in 1998. Memorial events begin in late September and throughout October. For a complete list of events, visit www.uwyo.edu/shepardsymposium/matthew-shepard-memorial-group/.
Nicole Lamartine, director of choral activities at UW, began work in 2016 to bring Conspirare to Laramie for Shepard’s memorial events.
“Craig Hella Johnson wrote this piece after visiting Laramie in 2012, and it is commemorative for Conspirare to bring the concert back home to the point of its origination,” she says. “Thanks to the efforts of UW administration and the city of Laramie, Conspirare will be here on this special memorial to share this piece. ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ is so much more than a concert -- it is a shared experience that brings the community together and invites conversation.”
“We feel passionately about bringing ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ to Laramie,” says Ann McNair, managing director of Conspirare.
“As an optimistic young university student, Matt chose Laramie as the gateway to his future,” she adds. “While Matt’s life ended in Laramie, his legacy journeys on, as does the legacy of the city he loved.”
She adds that the group is excited to work closely with UW and the city of Laramie to include opportunities for the community to connect through outreach, including talk-backs with the artists and the public.
“Several colleagues, including myself, have visited Laramie and are eager to return to this community that made a positive impact on us,” McNair says.
“Considering Matthew Shepard” joins the ranks of many significant artistic responses to Shepard’s legacy. Most noteworthy is “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, which has been seen by more than 30 million people.
“Matt Shepard and his story have led me on an inspiring, challenging and deeply meaningful journey that I continue to this day,” Hella Johnson says about his first full-length oratorio. “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.”
Jason Marsden, the Matthew Shepard Foundation executive director, calls “Considering Matthew Shepard” by far “the most intricate, beautiful and unyielding artistic response to this notorious anti-gay hate crime.”
Audiences have described the 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.” The Washington Post, in a review, said, “‘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.”
Conspirare won its first Grammy Award in 2014 for Best Choral Performance for its recording, “The Sacred Spirit of Russia.” The recording was released on the Harmonia Mundi label, and it contains works by Rachmaninoff, Grechaninov, Kalinnikov and Chesnokov.
Conspirare premiered “Considering Matthew Shepard” in February 2016 at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Austin. Conspirare since has appeared at Boston’s Symphony Hall; Pasadena and Los Angeles, Calif.; and College Station, Texas, to perform the Shepard tribute.
Noted conductor Simon Halsey gave the European premiere in October 2017 at Barcelona’s Palau de Musica. The work also was performed at the 2017 gathering of the National Collegiate Choral Organization’s annual conference.
The ensemble is co-producing a “Considering Matthew Shepard” television special with KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. The special will be nationally distributed in fall 2018. Conspirare continues to collaborate with the Matthew Shepard Foundation to expand the work’s educational and outreach components.
For more information about Conspirare, email McNair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the local production, call Lamartine at (307) 288-0042 or email email@example.com.