University Singers with guest artists and orchestra

Considering Matthew Shepard -a modern oratorio by Craig Hella Johnson
April 14, 2023 - 8:00pm
Old Cabell Hall on the UVA Lawn

The UVA University Singers will present the area premiere of Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard, a powerful new oratorio, on Friday, April 14th, 2023 at 8:00 PM. The concert takes place in UVA’s Old Cabell Hall, and tickets are available at the UVA Arts Box Office | 434 924-3376

Johnson’s fusion oratorio, combining his own choral voice with elements of Broadway, country music, modern minimalism, Bach chorales, and gospel styles, is in his words “a space for reflection, consideration, and unity around [Shepard’s] life and legacy.” The Washington Post describes the work saying, “[the oratorio] demonstrates music’s capacity to encompass, transform and transcend tragedy.” The story is that of Matthew Shepard, a young gay student at the University of Wyoming, who on October 6, 1998 was beaten and left to die in a field near Laramie, Wyoming. He died several days later, becoming a symbol and catalyst for anti-hate crime legislation and movements, including the 2009 federal “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.”

The oratorio was conceived ahead of the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s passing, and this special performance takes place approaching the 25th anniversary. The University Singers will be joined by soloists and chamber orchestra, and led by UVA Director of Choral Music, conductor Michael Slon. In addition to the texts of Michael Dennis Brown, Lesléa Newman, and others, the performance will also feature art work from Karin Elsner and Elliott Forrest. Join us for this special and powerful evening of music, which invites us to consider love, understanding, justice, forgiveness, and compassion as a community.

*Content note: In places, this oratorio takes up difficult themes related to the Shepard story, including reflections upon his death, mourning, and anti-LGBTQ positions and actions.

The UVA University Singers is the University of Virginia’s flagship choral ensemble, heard by thousands each season in performances of a cappella and accompanied choral repertoire, including major works with orchestra. In 2017, the group joined the Charlottesville Symphony on the steps of the Rotunda to perform for UVA’s Bicentennial Launch Celebration, before an estimated crowd of 20,000. In recent years, the Singers have also sung for Les Misérables creators Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil during their UVA residencies, sung for the 2016 UVA Holiday greeting which received more than 400,000 views on social media, and taken a two-week concert tour of England, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria. During the pandemic, they continued to present virtual performances, and hosted online master classes with Eric Whitacre, Alice Parker, and other choral luminaries. Highlights since have included a joint performance of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers with the Oratorio Society of VA, and a performance for Pres. Ryan’s Arts on the Hill series – and the ensemble looks forward to a May 2023 concert tour.

For tickets: UVA Arts Box Office | 434 924-3376  Tickets are $15 for the general public,  $13 for UVA Faculty & Staff, $5 for Students and Free for UVA Students who reserve in advance.  Tickets may be purchased at the UVA Arts Box Office , (434) 924-3376 or at the door one hour prior to the concert.

Old Cabell Hall is located on the south end of UVA’s historic lawn, directly opposite the Rotunda. (map) Parking is available in the central grounds parking garage on Emmet Street, in the C1 parking lot off McCormick Rd, and in the parking lots at the UVA Corner.  Handicap parking is available in the small parking lot adjacent to Bryan Hall.

All programs are subject to change.  

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UVA Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176