Craig Hella Johnson’s Grammy-nominated oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard will be presented by Soundstream New Music, a leading proponent of new music and experimental arts in Australia. The dynamic modern-day oratorio opens this Thursday 12 October at the Elder Hall, Adelaide.
The central character in Johnson’s work, Matthew Shepard, was a young Wyoming man who fatally fell victim to a hate crime in October 1998. Though Shepard’s brutal murder created a landmark moment in America’s LGBTQI rights movement, Johnson’s music shines a light on the human spirit – its capacity for resilience, solidarity through grief, and the love that binds and leads to healing.
Musical Director Jesse Budel leads a versatile ensemble of instrumentalists and vocalists drawn from the ranks of Adelaide’s finest choirs including: the Adelaide Chamber Singers, the Graduate Singers, and the Young Adelaide Voices’ Aurora. Among the soloists is celebrated tenor Mark Oates known recently for his acclaimed performance in Watershed at the Adelaide Festival 2022.
Budel, known for his equal comfort with experimental forms of sound art as well as musical theatre, returns to the podium to conduct Considering Matthew Shepard as he did during its thrilling Australian premiere in 2019, which was praised for its “intense communicative musicality and sincerity” (Broadway World).
“I’m very excited to bring back this deeply moving and inspiring oratorio for South Australian audiences on the 25th anniversary of these tragic events.”– jesse budel, conductor
The music of Considering Matthew Shepard draws from multiple points of inspiration, from Bach’s passions to the blues, Gregorian chant to country music. The vast musical landscape the work traverses is emblematic of the work’s underlying message of togetherness, and bringing different and disparate people, with their individual hopes and aspirations, to a joint path towards love and unity, as Budel explains:
“Matthew’s story connects with many other shared experiences in our community, including Dr George’s Duncan’s 1972 drowning, the hate crimes in Sydney this past half century, and more recently the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shootings. Considering Matthew Shepard is a significant work that, through contemplating Matthew’s legacy, invites us all to find shared love, compassion and life-affirming joy.”
Generously supported by the Elder Conservatorium of Music (The University of Adelaide) and the Pinnacle Foundation, Considering Matthew Shepard offers a profoundly heart-rending and uplifting story through which, as Budel says, “we can collectively contemplate our human condition, and celebrate the richness and diversity that life offers.”
Considering Matthew Shepard, conducted by Jesse Budel | with choir, soloists, piano and chamber orchestra. Performances are 7.30pm on Thursday 12 October and Saturday 14 October. Tickets are available here and at the door.