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The 2023/24 Ninth Season of the Cleveland Chamber Choir, Northeast Ohio’s leading professional choral ensemble, opens with Craig Hella Johnson’s concert-length modern oratorio, Considering Matthew Shepard.

Twenty-five years ago, on Oct. 6, 1998, two men offered to give Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, a ride home from the Fireside Lounge in Laramie. Instead, they drove him to the middle of nowhere, pistol-whipped and tortured him, tied him to a fence, and left him for dead. After Shepard lay in a coma for eighteen hours, a passing cyclist–who at first thought Shepard was a scarecrow–called for aid. Six days later, Shepard died from the brain damage.

Craig Hella Johnson seamlessly weaves together passages from Shepard’s personal journal, interviews with his parents, texts from Rumi, Hildegard of Bingen, and a panoply of musical styles to create a work that The Washington Post says “demonstrates music’s capacity to encompass, transform and transcend tragedy.” The Choir will be joined by Lakewood Symphonic Mixed Choir for these performances, under the direction of Rayna Brooks.

“Matthew Shepard’s story touched so many of us, and remains shockingly timely even as we approach the 25th anniversary of his death,” said Gregory Ristow, the Choir’s newly announced Artistic Director. “Johnson’s remarkable telling of it invites us all to a place of compassion and understanding, that is only heightened by his music.”

Both concerts are presented free of charge, with the choir’s philosophy that choral music is a vehicle for good in the world that should be accessible and welcoming to all. Free-will donations accepted. Register for your FREE tickets at

A portion of donations collected will be directed to QYou, a program supporting queer youth through the LGBT Center of Cleveland. A pre-concert talk will be presented by Charles Edward McGuire, PhD, from Oberlin College & Conservatory, 45 minutes before each performance. This concert is presented with generous grants from The Cleveland Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, and Local 4 Music Fund and in collaboration with Avon Lake UCC and Trinity Cathedral Cleveland.

Types of Music
Event Info
  • Sun, Oct 22, 2023, 4:00 pm
  • 2230 Euclid Ave
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