The Bedford High School Honors Choir will be joining the Polymnia Choral Society of Melrose to perform the oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard on Sunday, March 5. The concert, conducted by Polymnia’s Artistic Director Murray Kidd, will take place at 3:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center of Melrose Middle School.
Considering Matthew Shepard is a Grammy nominated, three-part oratorio composed by Craig Hella Johnson. It was inspired by the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student who was kidnapped, beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die in 1998. The oratorio combines classical, contemporary, and country music styles as well as spoken word to share the life, murder, and legacy of Matthew Shepard.
Throughout the school year, the BHS Honors Choir has studied and prepared to join the more than 60 singers from the Polymnia Choral Society as well as a live orchestra of professional musicians from the greater Boston area in the performance. The performers range in age from 15 to 90 years old.
Katrina Faulstich, the BHS Honors Choir director and assistant director of Polymnia Choral Society, said, “High school students do not often get the opportunity to perform choral masterworks with a live orchestra. This will be a great opportunity for the Honors Choir students, who usually sing in small ensembles.”
Jacob Choi, a BHS junior and member of the Honors Choir, is a featured soloist in the performance. He said that preparing for the performance has been a learning experience and he has had to work hard practicing both at home and in class on what he calls “a really challenging piece.”
Choi commented on all of the layers involved in learning the composition, the melodies, the lyricism, the artistry, and how it combines to tell the story.
“It is an honor to be invited to perform in this show,” both as a performer and to be a part of “sharing the story of these struggles in our society.” He hopes the narrative will “inspire the audience.”
BHS Junior Honors Choir Member Cate Galante said she has learned more about what an impact the death of Matthew Shepard played.
A few months prior to the murder of Matthew Shepard, James Byrd Jr., a Black man, husband, and father, was murdered in a racially motivated attack by white supremacists. Both Byrd’s and Shepard’s deaths were the catalysts for the creation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 2009. Educational resources and representatives from organizations that support both the LGBTQ+ community and local racial justice programs will be onsite at the performance to engage, support, and educate the audience.
Galante said, “It’s beautiful how we get to be a part of this and we are still remembering the legacy of [these men] in this way while also raising awareness.”
Classmate Shannon Sullivan agreed and added that “It’s important to look at the progress that’s been made,” but even with that, these conversations “always seem relevant to what is going on around us.”
Two groups of BHS Honors Choir members have benefited from the message. The performance was originally rehearsed with a group of students and planned for March 2020, but was canceled due to the pandemic. This will be a new group of BHS singers performing on March 5.
Tickets for the oratorio can be purchased ahead of time at https://polymnia.org/about-our-upcoming-season or at the door before the performance.
Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School is located at 350 Lynn Fells Parkway, Melrose. The doors open at 2:30 p.m.
Note: This event should be considered PG13 and contains references to mature subject matter. This event may not be suitable for all children.