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New Hampshire Master Chorale To Give Three Performances of “Considering Matthew Shepard”

By Samantha Latos
On November 16, 2018


“Considering Matthew Shepard” is an oratorio by composer Craig Hella Johnson. It is a three-part fusion meant to honor the life of Matthew Shepard, who was the victim of one of the most brutal hate crimes in American history. Daniel Perkins of Plymouth State University will be conducting and playing the piano at these concerts. He is a professor of music, director of choral activities, and coordinator of vocal studies here at PSU. These upcoming concerts by the New Hampshire Master Chorale will pay tribute to the 20th anniversary of Shepard's death while celebrating 20 years of anti-hate activism.

The New Hampshire Master Chorale is a well-known chamber chorus, which recently received a State Grant Award of $4,500. “We are very pleased to have the financial support of the NH State Council on the Arts,” Perkins said, “Grant writing is a continual part of our fundraising and over the years we have received a number of wonderful grants.”

The “Considering Matthew Shepard” repertoire explores different musical styles while sending out a powerful message. “It tells the story and by extension tells the story of many others who have suffered and continue to suffer abuse, hate, and discrimination,” Perkins said. A lyric that truly speaks to him is, "We are all sons and daughters of fathers and mothers." 

Shepard was an openly gay college student at the University of Wyoming. On October 6th, 1998, two men took him to a barren field, tied him to a fence, and beat him. Suffering many blows to the head, his brain was damaged beyond repair. They left him there to die. He wasn’t discovered until 18 hours later, when rescuers rushed him to a hospital. Shepard died 6 days later due to complications from severe head injuries.

Shepard was not laid to rest until October of this year. His parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, held onto his urn all this time. They were hesitant to spread his ashes anywhere, fearing they would be desecrated. They felt very protective over his remains, given the horrific way he died.

His remains are now held in the National Cathedral crypt, alongside the remains of Woodrow Wilson, Hellen Keller, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Today, he is remembered as an honorable figure for the LGBT+ community. 

His family started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to provide support and resources to LGBT+ youth, as well as to promote local, regional, and national outreach to address hate. The foundation also helped lay the groundwork for federal hate crimes legislation that was passed under the Obama Administration in 2009.

Daniel Perkins believes Shepard's story should never be forgotten. “History proves to us that the flames of hate and intolerance will always resurface when fanned by cultural and political leaders in times of hardship and change. The story has to be told again and again to maintain a balance in which kindness, love, and tolerance dominate. The task will never be finished,” he said.

The concerts are sure to be emotional, and Perkins hopes that everyone takes away an important message: “Inspiration to be more sensitive, kind, and mindful of others.”

The first concert will be this Friday, the 16, at South Church in Portsmouth, located at 292 State Street, at 8pm. Next is the 17, at First Congregational Church in Concord, located at 117 North Main Street, at 7:30pm. The last performance is on the 18th, at Plymouth Congregational Church, here in Plymouth, at 4 Post Office Square, at 4pm.

Perkins and all of the chamber singers are looking forward to these performances. “The performances are the culmination of several years of planning and two months of weekly rehearsals,” Perkins said, “Our preparation has included a great deal of research which helps us to express the music and story more honestly and effectively.”

People from all over the state are encouraged to attend any or all of these concerts. Tickets, free for college students, will be available at the doors, or at 

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