A lead Atlanta-based choir and local nonprofit have teamed up to produce a musical in honor of Matthew Shepard, a victim of a hate-crime.
Coro Vocati and Be THE Voice, an organization that helps students speak up in situations that involve bullying, are proud to produce the Georgia professional premiere of “Considering Matthew Shepard,” a musical journey about the life and legacy of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard.
Shepard was an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming. On Oct. 7, 1998, 21-year-old Shepard was abducted, beaten, tied to a fence and left to die outside of Laramie, Wyoming. Days later on Oct. 12, Shepard died as a result of his wounds.
The men who attacked and killed Shepard pled guilty to kidnapping and murder and were sentenced to two consecutive life prison sentences.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 criminalized hate crimes based on race, color, religion and national origin, but it was not until 2009 that gender, sexual orientation and disabilities were included.
Honoring the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s tragic death, “Considering Matthew Shepard” conveys a message of inclusivity and acceptance.
John Dickson, the choir’s artistic director, says the show is not a concert or Broadway-type show, but a “staged performance of contemporary passion.”
“When I conducted (“Considering Matthew Shepard”) in fall of 2017, it was the most remarkable experience I’ve ever had as a conductor,” Dickson says. “Just the visceral story of it, the impression that it made on the audience and my choir, it was phenomenal.”
Together, Coro Vocati and Be THE Voice are raising awareness of “Considering Matthew Shepard” and the importance of standing up for others who may be viewed as different.
According to Be THE Voice, less than 20 percent of kids try to stop bullying, mainly because they do not know how to intervene.
“I don’t think hate can exist without fear,” Dickson says. “Ultimately, we begin to hate what we fear.”
Given the special nature of the concert, Coro Vocati is inviting select high school students from throughout metro Atlanta and members of the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, Atlanta Women’s Chorus and OurSong to join in singing one of the final pieces of the program, “All of Us.” This meaningful song describes the role everyone has in creating a society that promotes love and rejects hate.
“I’m hoping that we can promote a message of love and acceptance that we need now more than ever before,” Dickson said. “This [show] is about hate and what it hate does when it becomes a crime against another person.”
Jamie Clements, the singer who performs as Shepard, says singing as Shepard has helped him declutter his own feelings and remember that hate exits, but so does love and goodness.
"Because I see music as light in the darkness, I try to skate on the thin edge right at the cusp of where darkness touches light," Clements said. "I think this is where the power of music can best be displayed. When I sing in the voice of Matthew, I feel very real rays of energy and light coming through the words and melodies."
“Considering Matthew Shepard” will occur on June 29, at 8 p.m. The performance will take place at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. Tickets range in price from $20-$50. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit citysprings.com/events.