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Considering Matthew Shepard Program

March 25, 2023•  Cynthia Powell, Artistic Director  • Eric Sedgwick, Pianist


Welcome to Considering Matthew Shepard


This year marks the 25th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder, meaning that it has now reached an interesting milestone in our nation’s history. At this point, there are many adults today who have no first-hand recollection of the events surrounding the death of Matthew Shepard (including many of our own Stonewall Chorale members singing tonight). That being said, there are few that don’t know about what happened to him, due in great part to a legacy that reaches well beyond his death and into the here and now. Many remember the news coverage of the murder and the national discourse it sparked on anti-gay violence, while others more vividly recall the images of hateful anti-gay protesters at Matthew’s memorial service or outside his murderers’ court trials. Some have only heard of Matthew Shepard when supporters and loved ones fought to pass hate crime legislation in his name, finally succeeding when President Obama signed it into law almost eleven years after the murder (a delay due to years of debate and opposition not so different from what continues in our current political discourse). And still others may have happened upon Matthew’s story through a play, a movie, a documentary, a retrospective news article, or artistic depictions such as the work we perform for you tonight. Some may have even heard of Matthew for the first time through news coverage of his ashes being interred at the Washington National Cathedral five years ago (and during which tonight’s piece was performed), or of last year’s unveiling of a portrait of Matthew to be displayed there. So whether or not you were around in October of 1998, or however and whenever the news reached you, it is very likely that you knew about Matthew Shepard before tonight.


For many of us in the LGBTQI+ community, Matthew Shepard was and is so much more than a national talking point, or a martyr for the cause of queer rights, or a tragic loss to violence and hate. Matthew was and is, for many of us, a part of our community whose story is all too familiar, a young person among so many we’ve lost too soon.


From his ordinary beginnings and his artistic and theatrical interests, to his personal struggles with depression and his experiences with sexual assault in high school, Matthew was a kid whose life reflected so many of ours, and whose death is a very cutting reminder of the cruelty and hatred that all too many would exact on us because of who we are and who we love. For those of us who remember that time, the anger and the depth of grief many of us experienced then was suffered silently. In my own case, I was only a month older than Matthew, and the events of his attack and passing took place just a few days before my own twenty-second birthday. Like many other queer people hearing the news, I mourned and raged and reeled, but also like many, because of hearing those around us speak with such homophobic disdain and nonchalance about what happened to Matthew, kept all the feelings of that moment quietly inside myself. I’ve spoken to others who were in much the same situation back then, and they’ve echoed much of what I felt. They describe remembering that time with a sadness and complexity much like the telling of Matthew’s story can be for anyone trying to make sense of how something so terrible could happen, and how so many people could fail to see the horror and inhumanity of it.


Twenty-five years later, it is indeed a different time, but also not so different. While many of us who kept silent back then out of fear are now speaking (and singing) out proudly about our loves, lives, and truths, there are many in our community who still remain silent out of fear of very real rejection, hatred, and violence. While same-sex marriage is now the law of the land in the United States, unlike when Matthew was alive, there are those who would revoke that right from us, and are diligently working to do so. Demonstrations of hate and intimidation outside of Drag Story Hour children’s book readings hearken back to the hateful demonstrations outside Matthew’s funeral. And just as in Matthew’s time, queer, transgender, and non-binary kids are being bullied in school settings by classmates and adults alike, making an already difficult time in one’s life all the more needlessly fraught, even dangerous. It is not only in remembrance of Matthew Shepard and all those we’ve lost to hate, but also in light of and in defiance of all the persisting violence and bigotry in our midsts, that The Stonewall Chorale performs this piece tonight.


“Considering Matthew Shepard” is technically an oratorio, given its scope and narrative construction. It is also not lost on me that the oratorio form traditionally draws from spiritual texts and themes. For many of us, Matthew’s story is a spiritual one, and the active reflection on his life and death through the performance of this piece is likewise spiritually meaningful. We hope that, in your hearing of the piece, you stand with us in an act of remembrance, defiance, and ultimately, joy and love, which is the cornerstone of what brings us together tonight. For all the solemnity of a piece like this, we also bring to you an authentically joyful celebration of Matthew through music, weaving our own threads into the fabric of an ultimately triumphant legacy, simply by telling Matthew Shepard’s story and hoping you, too, will pass it on.


In Solidarity and Song,
Emily McSpadden, President

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The following are links to more information about the work, services and stories that honor and continue Matthew Shepard’s legacy:



Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass | Aaron Sanko

Ordinary Boy | Michelle Ammirati, Larissa Flint McDowell (Judy Shepard), Andrew Grant, (Matt), Aaron Sanko

We Tell Each Other Stories | Scarlett Ferman



The Fence (before) | Scott Smith

The Fence (that night) | William Hurwitz

A Protestor

Keep It Away From Me (The Wound of Love) | Adelaide Fuller

Trio: Larissa Flint McDowell, Scarlett Ferman, Michelle Ammirati

Fire of the Ancient Heart | William Hurwitz

Stray Birds

I Am Like You/We Are All Sons | Larissa Flint McDowell, Siobahn Hotaling, Donald Johnston, Jason McDowell

The Innocence | Donald Johnston

The Fence (one week later) | Casey Gilfoil

In Need of Breath | Aaron Sanko

Deer Song | Andrew Grant

Trio: Larissa Flint McDowell, Scarlett Ferman, Michelle Ammirati

Pilgrimage | Larissa Flint McDowell, Michelle Ammirati



Meet Me Here | Scarlett Ferman

All Of Us | Trio: Larissa Flint McDowell, Scarlett Ferman, Michelle Ammirati


Recitations in order: Joyce Weinstein, Deb Reiner, Kira Stockdale, Cecelia Martin, Nora Isacoff, William Hurwitz, Deb Reiner, Taronté Venable, Janet Zaleon, John-Charles Kelly, Lisa Reeves, Joyce Weinstein

Program Attributions

Considering Matthew Shepard Text authors and publication credits.

All music composed by Craig Hella Johnson © 2016.


Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass Compilation with additional text © Craig Hella Johnson / Please Come to Wyoming by John D. Nesbitt © by John D. Nesbitt. Used by kind permission. / Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass by Sue Wallis © by Estate of Sue Wallis. Used by kind permission. Quoting Prelude in C Major Book 1, Well-Tempered Clavier by J. S. Bach

Ordinary Boy © Craig Hella Johnson / From The Meaning of Matthew, by Judy Shepard p. 206. / + I Love Poem by Matt Shepard © by Judy Shepard. Used by kind permission.

We Tell Each Other Stories © Craig Hella Johnson

The Fence (before)* Lesléa Newman

The Fence (that night) Material reproduced from Hildegard of Bingen from Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the "Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum" (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations), Second Edition, translated by Barbara Newman. © 1988, 1998 by Cornell University. Used by permission of the translator, Barbara Newman, and publisher, Cornell University Press. / The Fence (that night)* Lesléa Newman

A Protestor * Lesléa Newman / Additional italicized text by Craig Hella Johnson

Keep it Away From Me (The Wound of Love) by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson © 2015 by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson. Used by kind permission. / Gabriela Mistral

Fire of the Ancient Heart by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson © 2015 by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson. Used by kind permission. / ^Genesis 4:10 / #Rumi / ~William Blake. With thanks to Tom Burritt – percussion consultation and special arrangement

Stray Birds Stray Birds by Rabindranath Tagore

I Am Like You/We Are All Sons © Craig Hella Johnson

The Innocence by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson © 2015 by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson. Used by kind permission.

The Fence (one week later)* Lesléa Newman

21. Stars* Lesléa Newman / Dennis Shepard Statement to the Court

In Need of Breath Hafiz lyrics from “In Need of the Breath” from the Penguin (New York) publication The Gift: Poems by Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky. © 1999 Daniel Ladinsky and used with his permission.

Deer Song by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson © 2015 by

Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson. Used by kind permission.

The Wind* Lesléa Newman

Pilgrimage* Lesléa Newman

Meet Me Here © Craig Hella Johnson

All of Us by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson © 2015 by Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson. Used by kind permission. / + from Divine Comedy, from the Paradiso by Dante, adapted by Michael Dennis Browne

Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass (reprise) Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass by Sue Wallis © by Estate of Sue Wallis. Used by kind permission. / Please Come to Wyoming by John D. Nesbitt © by John D. Nesbitt. Used by kind permission.


Recitations compiled from news reports and crafted by Craig Hella Johnson and Michael Dennis Browne.



*All works by Lesléa Newman are from OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD. Copyright © 2012 by Lesléa Newman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Selections used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Copyright © 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Artist Bios

CYNTHIA POWELLConductor and Artistic Director, celebrates her 20th season with the Stonewall Chorale.  A graduate of Westminster Choir College, she has worked with many musical groups in the NY metropolitan area and has conducted major works for chorus and orchestra. She has served on the guest faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, led the St. George's Choral Society in NYC, and was a guest conductor at the International Choral Festival in Havana, Cuba. She is also the Artistic Director of Melodia Women’s Choir, and currently serves as Organist/Choirmaster of Temple Sinai in Tenafly, NJ. Her passion for music and commitment to the choral art is coupled with a desire to generate awareness and funds for timely causes, and she has produced recitals, oratorios and concerts to benefit Bailey House, a homeless residence for people with AIDS, for Doctors Without Borders, the Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan, and Water is Life, Kenya. 

ERIC SEDGWICK, Pianist, has performed with many of music’s top talents including Leona Mitchell, Sanford Sylvan and Marni Nixon, Broadway leading ladies Sarah Rice, Carole Demas and Debra Monk, and English hornist Thomas Stacy of the New York Philharmonic. A frequent performer and collaborator in the NYC area, he is also a vocal coach at the Manhattan School of Music and the faculty collaborative pianist for the Tanglewood Music Center. He has served as rehearsal pianist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the batons of Michael Tilson Thomas, Bramwell Tovey, John Williams and Andris Nelsons. He is a regular pianist for events with the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and has worked for Carnegie Hall’s Music Education Workshops with Joyce DiDonato, as well as for the International Vocal Arts Institutes in New York and Montreal, and for Beth Morrison Projects. For ten years he was the music director for the Junior Opera Theater scenes program at Manhattan School of Music, directed by Catherine Malfitano. On the west coast, he has been a longtime coach and music director for the OperaWorks training program in Los Angeles.

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The Stonewall Chorale

SOPRANO: Michelle Ammirati+, El Bernatovicz, Elizabeth Bertekap*, Suzanne Cohen*, Jeanne Fahrenback, Julia Feikens*, Scarlett Ferman, Larissa Flint McDowell**+, Kaila Galinat, Joan Gardner, Casey Gilfoil, Teal Inzunza, Beth Kelly, Sandy MacDonald, Rachel Oladimeji, Sarah Rhoads*, Deb Reiner, Lyndsey Richardson, Emma Shilliday*, Susan Strickler, Ann Sweeney, Joyce Weinstein, Deb Woolridge*


ALTO: Kirsten Abrams*, Olivia Beeman, Jane Bishop*, Alva Bostick*, Emily Boytinck, Sarah Chapman, Erin Clancy, Theresa Colliton, Adelaide Fuller, Stephanie Heintzeler, Siobhan Hotaling, Nora Isacoff, Grace Lazos+, Elana Leifer, Cecelia Martin, Emily McSpadden+, Julia Millison, Nicole Mion, Marina Mulé, Lisa Reeves, Maya Sariahmed*, Katherine Silva, Lindsay Stefferson, Gwendolyn Stegall+, Kira Stockdale, Jan Thompson, Janet Zaleon**, Ellen Zimmerli*


TENOR: Jose Cuevas, David Fanger**, Andrew Grant, Donald Johnston, John Kennedy, Debbie Mincer+, Christina Richards*, Gilbert Robinson, Aaron Sanko, Scott Smith, Taronté Venable+


BASS: John Barrow**, Michael Conwill*, Malcolm Couden, Marsh Drege, Melissa Hsu, William Hurwitz, John-Charles Kelly, Eric Manlapig, Jason McDowell, Scott Munson, Craig Sabbatino, Cameron Shore, Ontario Turner


* 22-23 season member is on leave for this concert

** Section Leader

+ Board Member

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Instrumental Ensemble

Violin: Keiko Tokunaga

Viola: Chiu-Chen Liu

Cello: Jules Biber

Clarinet: Ben Fingland

Guitar: Chris Biesterfeldt

Double Bass: Troy Rinker

Percussion: Bill Hayes

Piano: Eric Sedgwick

Sponsorships & Dedications

Considering Matthew Shepard is sponsored by Anonymous Friends of The Stonewall Chorale


Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass, Ordinary Boy, Fire of the Ancient Heart, and All of Us

are dedicated to the memory of Peter Flint by Scott Robertson   


We Tell Each Other Stories: Teal Inzunza, Sue Yacka-Bible    

In memory of Andrea Yacka-Bible


The Fence Before, The Fence That Night, The Fence 1 Week Later: Bass Section      

In honor of Michael Conwill


A Protestor and Keep It Away From Me: Joyce Weinstein      

To the fighters, past and present, against hatred of all types


Stray Birds: Tenor section       

“Love is the only reality”—Rabindranath Tagore


I Am Like You/ We Are All Sons: Terry Colliton         

In gratitude to the Chorale


The Innocence: Tenor Section 


Deer Song: Terry Colliton                                            


Pilgrimage: Debbie Mincer      


Meet Me Here: Soprano Section

Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass (Reprise): Soprano Section                               


Pianist Eric Sedgwick: Marjorie and Steven Sussman   

In memory of Gladys Thompson


Cellist Jules Biber: Alto section


Alan Cohn sponsors The Stonewall Chorale

In memory of my little brother, Richard Froehlich, who I miss every day!

Alan Cohn sponsors The Stonewall Chorale  In memory of my little brother, Richard Froehlich, who I miss every day!

Charles Abbott & John-Charles Kelly, Marianne Ardito, Susan Bargman, John Barrow, Alyson Ben-David, Jeanne Betancourt, Donald Bickford, Stephanie Blackwood, Tom Bogdan, Alva Bostick, the Brode family, Laurie Braun, Angela Bucknell, Samphas Chhea, Ruth Cohen, Alan Cohn, Aaron Comins, Michael Conwill, Margaret Crull, John Cunningham, Stephen and Nola Deutsch, Marsh Drege, Diane Duckler, William Erlbaum, Ora Ezrachi, Fidelity Charitable, Louis Fifer, MacKenzie Fillow, John Fischer, Marshall Foster, Rima Grad, Stephanie Griffin, Verene Grigoletto, Groundswell Charitable Foundation, Jean Hamerman, Louis Harrison, Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP, Stephanie Heintzeler, Roger Hirsch, Elliot Hurwitz, Stuart Isacoff, Jean-Pierre Jacquet, Andrew Johnson, Ann Kaplan, John Kennedy, Pamela Knight, Beth Knobel, Aaron Koffman, Robin Krause, Becky Kurtz, Jennie LaCovey, Stephanie Lawal, Robert Lewis, Virginia Lowery, Tondra and Jeff Lynford, Cecelia Martin, Pamela McAllister, Marjorie McCoy, Larissa McDowell, Arthur McLean, Freya Mercer, Barbara Merjan, Deborah Mincer, Carolyn Mincer, James Mion, Debra Monk, Moody's Investors Service, Elizabeth Neill, Andrea Newman, William Nye, Manuel Ovando, Theresa Pascoe, Alan Pasternack, Laura Perry, Cynthia Powell, Geoffrey Proulx, Joyce Pyle, RBC Capital Markets, Lisa Reeves, Deb Reiner, Ellen Reiner, Michael Richardson & Ruthann Richardson, Scott Robertson, Verdery Roosevelt, Bruce Sandys, Serra Schlanger, Sara Sloan, Marie-Louise Stegall, George Stevens, Stifel Nicolaus, Marjorie Sussman, Steven Sussman, Ann Sweeney, Iris Trotman, Twitter, Susan Ullman, Valerie Wald, Lee Warshavsky, Joyce Weinstein, Eric Weis, Jeffrey Whiting, Brooke Wiese, Janet Zaleon, Marilyn Zaleon, Ruthie Zaleon

Special Thanks

Colin Taber, video
Paul Vazquez, audio recording
Allison Sniffin, extra percussion and organ
Deb Reiner & Terry Colliton, libretto proofing and production

Linda Romano, program and graphic design

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