This weekend, composer and conductor Craig Hella Johnson brings his Austin, Texas-based choral ensemble Conspirare Company of Voices to Los Angeles for two performances of his evening-length work Considering Matthew Shepard under the stars at the Ford Amphitheatre. It’s a fitting venue for the work, which is a meditation on the life and legacy of Mathew Shepard, a young gay student at the University of Wyoming who, in October 1998, was kidnapped, beaten, tied to a fencepost, and left to die under a blanket of stars in a field outside the town of Laramie.
Conspirare Company of Voices with Craig Hella Johnson | Photo by Scott Van Odsol
It was a horrific act which, along with the brutal lynching of James Byrd Jr. four months earlier, inspired the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Legislation Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in October 2009.
In a wide-ranging conversation with KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen, Craig Hella Johnson discusses his inspiration for Considering Matthew Shepard, his use of many different musical styles in the work, how society has progressed and regressed in the 20 years since the murder of Matthew Shepard, Johnson’s own journey through conversion therapy to eventually finding and accepting himself for who he is, and the search for hope among the pain of Shepard’s story.
Hit play below to listen to our bonus KUSC Out and About feature on “Considering Matthew Shepard”.
Conspirare Company of Voices performs Considering Matthew Shepard at the the Ford Amphitheatre on June 15 and 16. Tickets are available at fordtheatres.org.