Best Of 2018

Best Choral Performance: Considering Matthew Shepard

The Vocal Arts Ensemble delivered a stunning performance of Considering Matthew Shepard, composed by VAE artistic director Craig Hella Johnson. In 1998, Shepard was a college student at the University of Wyoming when he was brutally beaten and tied to a fence outside of Laramie. He died six days later, and became an icon for the LGBTQ+ community. Using Bach’s passion oratorios as a model, Johnson set texts by Shepard and his parents, Hildegard von Bingen, Michael Dennis Browne, Lesléa Newman, Hafiz and Johnson himself. Scored for piano, string ensemble, percussion, clarinet and guitar, the musical styles range from a cowboy’s high lonesome yodel to church chorales and a concluding gospel-infused chorus. The VAE is never less than excellent but it gave this extraordinary work the sense of commitment and urgency that it merits. Vocal Arts Ensemble, vaecinci.org.