On April 20, the Denison Chamber Singers Ensemble will perform Considering Matthew Shepard at Swasey Chapel at 7 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Considering Matthew Shepard weaves together a profound message of love and unity.  For professor Harris Ipock, director of choral activities, the choral work takes on a life of its own — becomes a living, breathing entity.

He chose this particular composition for its resonance with students. The oratorio is a blend of musical theater, jazz, and modern American classical music, musical languages with which the students are very familiar.

“Throughout the entire process, there’s a general meditation on the oneness that all human beings share,” Ipock said. “It’s something that students can immediately connect with and enjoy singing.”

Behind the scenes, the Chamber Singer choir, consisting of 36 students, has been practicing and rehearsing weekly in preparation for the upcoming performance. This performance offers a valuable opportunity to sharpen their musical skills, requiring precise control over volume, tempo, and interpretation.

He has guided the students through learning the intricate language of music, nurturing their skills in singing and listening. The next step brings the ensembles closer together, conveying the message of the oratorio.

The orchestra, mainly composed of faculty members, enhances the musical experience through a diverse array of instruments. It features piano, string quartet, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, acoustic and electric guitar, and percussion.

From its opening notes, the composition sets a solemn tone, reflecting the tragedy of Shepard’s murder. Progressing through stories about the aftermath of his death and its great impacts nationwide, Considering Matthew Shepard allows for moments of collective grief and reflection.

Though initially rooted in the tragic story of Matthew Shepard, the composition evolves into a celebration of love and human connections. In the end, it offers a glimpse into the bonds that unite us, inviting the audience to immerse themselves in the shared experience.

More about Considering Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, fell victim to brutal bullying and violence due to his sexual orientation in 1998.

His murder became national and international news. It prompted a change in government legislation reforms about hate crime and ignited a movement for LGBTQ+ rights across the United States.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s murder, Craig Hella Johnson composed Considering Matthew Shepard. This oratorio captures the essence of Shepard’s story through the lens of his personal journal and his family’s recollections.

Premiered by Grammy-winning choir Conspirare in 2016, Considering Matthew Shepard has been performed around the globe, touching hearts with its fusion of melodies and powerful narratives.

March 29, 2024