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In 1998 the then 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked by two men, who tied him to a fence and left him to die. It has become one of the most notorious anti-gay crimes in recent times in the United States. This tragic event has resulted in several artistic responses, including Elton John’s American Triangle, and now comes Craig Hella Johnson’s fusion oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard, written for Conspirare and here receiving its world premiere recording. A quasi-Passion, the work harnesses a wide range of styles: for example, Bach, Britten, Holst, indigenous traditions, country & western, popular ballads. The sincerity of the composer’s response to Shepard’s life and the performers’ commitment is never in doubt. The choral singing (soloists are drawn from their ranks) is excellent, committed and as engaging as one might expect. One only wishes the piece were more memorable than it is.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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