Event Canceled: Encore of Matthew Shepard piece slated

Audience, singers wanted repeat of powerful concert

After Arete performed the three-part fusion oratorio in November, singers and audience members spoke of how moving and memorable it was. 

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – March 10, 2020) In response to an outpouring of requests, Areté Vocal Ensemble is concluding its 11th season with a special encore performance of “Considering Matthew Shepard” at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 29, in California Lutheran University’s Samuelson Chapel.

Craig Hella Johnson wrote the concert-length work nearly two decades after Shepard’s death. In 1998, the gay student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a field under a blanket of stars. 

After Areté performed the three-part fusion oratorio in November, singers and audience members spoke of how moving and memorable it was. Attendees said they would love to hear it again and bring others with them, and all of the singers wanted to be a part of it again. 

“The reaction was stronger than I had anticipated,” said Wyant Morton, Areté’s founder and director. “It’s a very special piece of music, both musically and the dramatic and emotional nature of the piece. There is something about the story and the overall themes of love and acceptance that connected with people in a powerful way.”

The oratorio incorporates a variety of musical styles. Johnson set to music a wide range of poetic and soulful texts including passages from Shepard’s personal journal and his parents’ interviews and writings. 

The Washington Post wrote, “‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ demonstrates music’s capacity to encompass, transform and transcend tragedy. Powerfully cathartic, it leads us from horror and grief to a higher understanding of the human condition, enabling us to endure.”

Morton will conduct the professional ensemble of vocal artists. He founded Areté, which is based at Cal Lutheran, with the goal of performing the widest possible vocal repertoire, including works from essentially all periods of music. Special attention is given to contemporary, experimental, improvisatory, “crossover” and ethnic music. The ensemble, which takes its name from the Greek word for excellence, focuses on performing the new, the unknown and the unconventional with energy, passion, expertise and virtuosity.

The chapel is located at 165 Chapel Lane on the Thousand Oaks campus.

Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 if purchased online in advance. Tickets for students with ID are $10 and free for children under 12. For information and to purchase tickets, visit aretevocalensemble.org.