LSU A Cappella Choir's extraordinary work prompts discussion about hate crime

LSU A Cappella Choir's extraordinary work prompts discussion about hate crime

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU's A Cappella Choir welcomes a pro on a piece they're about to perform.

"We have two weeks of rehearsals with our stage director that was brought in from Austin," says choir director John H. Dickson. "He worked with PBS to film a full hour and a half documentary on Craig's (the composer's) work with Conspirare singing. It will be released next fall on the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death."

LSU students will perform "Considering Matthew Shepoard." The musical work examines the 1998 hate crime, which resulted in the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard because of his sexual preference.

"The work is semi-staged with lighting, video screen, and sparse props," Conductor Dickerson explained. "The musical styles include classical choral and string trio writing, jazz, gospel, country, modern plainchant, cluster harmony, and even Broadway musical style. However, I think the styles are woven together beautifully in an attempt to explore the important questions about diversity, marginalization, and societal responses to acts of violence, hate or intolerance."

Friday, November 3, the LSU A Cappella Choir will perform "Remembering Matthew Shepherd" in the LSU Union Theatre.

Dickson says the genesis of this performance originated after LSU was selected as the university to host The National Collegiate Choral Organization biennial conference. This is a distinct honor that welcomes collegiate choirs from all over the country and conductors from around the world. It is tradition that the host university choir is offered the President's concert on Friday evening.

Prior to the presentation there will be a forum that will offer an environment in which to talk about positive ways to address hatred and prejudice in our society. Held from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. in the Atchafalaya Room on the 3rd Floor of the Student Union, community leaders, clergy, university staff, and the local community will explore the work's wider implications and ways that music and the arts can function as positive agents for social discourse. Judy Shepard will speak at the Forum and perhaps assist with the introduction of the work to the audience just before the concert.

Dickson says he had to be persuasive to even acquire the piece for performance.

"When I called him (the composer) to inquire, Craig informed me that the work would not be released to the public for another year. I reminded him that his work would be heard by more than 300 conductors and their singers from around the country and world. And offering Baton Rouge, with our recent history of tragic events, as a platform, after deliberation by his Board they consented to allow this unique performance.

"As a musician and collegiate educator for 40 years, I have come to understand our responsibility as educators to open our students and communities to the questions of social justice, ethics, and moral behavior in our contemporary culture."

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