Composer Craig Hella Johnson worked closely with the USC Thornton Chamber Singers and guest musicians ahead of the April 8th performance of his oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shepard.”
The performers on stage at USC's Bovard Auditorium.
Soloist Matthew Alber, a member of the Conspirare ensenble, which premiered the work.
Lucie Shelley, Kate Crellin, and Maura Tuffy.
Johnson led the musicians from the piano.
Guest soloist Matthew Alber with Thornton DMA candidate Andrew Schultz.
DMA candidate Ernest Harrison performed a moving solo.
Senior Taylor Jacobs also took on a solo role.
The cast of performers in “Considering Matthew Shepard“ (All photos by Lawrence K. Ho/USC)
The performance ended in silence – from the audience. It wasn’t until the lights came up a full minute after the finale that the spell Considering Matthew Shepard cast over Bovard Auditorium was broken and the audience erupted in applause.
Craig Hella Johnson, the GRAMMY Award-winning composer of the oratorio, took the stage with the USC Thornton Chamber Singers on Sunday, April 8 after a week of rehearsals and masterclasses to perform his choral piece about college student Matthew Shepard who in 1998 was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die in a Wyoming field because he was gay.
Johnson was joined by two singers from his professional ensemble Conspirare, Kathlene Ritch and Matthew Alber, who reprised their roles from the original production. In addition, two musicians also traveled from Texas for the performance at Bovard. Guitarist Mitch Watkins and percussionist Thomas Buritt were joined by USC Thornton students to performance the music.
Sponsored by USC Visions and Voices: the Arts & Humanities Initiative, the production capped a remarkable week with Johnson that included a masterclass that became a sing-along.
One of the movements is named “All of Us,” and Johnson returned to it repeatedly in rehearsals, stating that he wanted the performance to feel inclusive and a shared undertaking with the audience.
A question he sought to answer: Is there a goodness, a love that unites us? The riveting performance offered a resounding answer: Yes.