BU presents “Considering Matthew Shepard”


Singers engaged in rehearsal with instructor. Photo by Novalea Verno.

Novalea Verno, Staff Writer

Schedule for all shows with times and locations. Photo by Novalea Verno.

Voices filled the room, from bottom to top, casting a trance that can only be achieved through song. The voices’ owners sat in a half circle surrounding a pianist and a man on his feet, directing their voices with the flip of his hand and turn of his body. The beautiful yet haunting weave of words they spun began to tell a story of humanity in its most tragic form.

This group of performers was preparing one of the many songs in their upcoming performance of “Considering Matthew Shepard” by Craig Hella Johnson. This musical story features over 30 songs and will be performed by three combined choirs; The Choral Society of Northeast Pennsylvania, The Bloomsburg University Concert Choir, and The Bloomsburg University Women’s Choral Ensemble.

“Considering Matthew Shepard,” tells the story of the 1988 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming. In his death, he became a martyr to those fighting a similar battle at a time when the LGBTQ+ community was far from accepted. 35 years later, both audiences and performers still feel the weight of his death as his tragic end is staged again and again.

The weight of this story is felt by all performers involved. In an effort to truly encapsulate the humanity behind this work, performers have had to dive deep into the story they’re telling.

“I think [the hardest part has been] looking at this text and actually sitting down with it and coming to terms with it,” said senior Kallie Koch.

Even Dr. Alan Baker, a professor at Bloomsburg University and Director of Choral/Vocal Activities, who is in charge of the Concert Choir, has remarked that the content of this story has evoked uncomfortable yet important feelings among the choirs.

“I don’t think you can really spend any time at all with [the story] without crying…. I think you just have to get through [the tears] before you can sing it,” said Baker.

For some, Shepard’s story hits a lot closer to home.

“My brother is trans…. So to tell this LGBTQ story is really special,” said junior Kalie Peterson.

Despite the differences in their reasonings, the overall conclusion of those involved in the crafting of this “resurrection” of a painful moment for the world, a community, and a family, is that this is a story that needs to be told.

“I’ve never worked on a piece of music with any choir that has been this meaningful to my students or myself,” said Baker.