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painting of fieldMembers of the UWindsor Chamber Choir will join singers from across the globe in an online performance of the finale of Considering Matthew Shepard on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Singers to add voices to global choir Tuesday

Members of the UWindsor Chamber Choir will join 477 singers from more than 45 choirs across the globe in an online performance Tuesday, Aug. 25.

The group will a virtual video performance of “All of Us,” the final movement from Craig Hella Johnson’s oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard, composed to honour the young gay Wyoming college student who was murdered in 1998, and who, along with the murdered James Byrd, are honoured in the naming of the United States’ federal law to prevent hate crimes.

When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the move to online classes on Friday, March 13, the UWindsor Chamber Choir and University Singers under the direction of Bruce J.G. Kotowich were just two weeks from their scheduled concert performance of Considering Matthew Shepard in the Heritage Auditorium of Assumption Hall.

At the time, Dr. Kotowich described this choral work as an oratorio for the modern period.

Considering Matthew Shepard is an oratorio of hope,” he said. “It reminds us of the importance of acceptance and understand, it speaks of dignity, and connection to creation and life around us. Using traditional oratorio forms, he reflects on the events of Matthew Shepard’s life, setting journal entries, court documents, and reflections in classical, jazz, country, and pop music styles. The story of hope is sung through songs of the common person.”

In April, Johnson invited high school, university, community, and professional choirs who had or were about to perform Considering Matthew Shephard in concert to submit a video of themselves singing their vocal part of the final movement, “All of Us.”

“Eighty schools were invited to take part,” Kotowich says. “We are one of 17 university choirs whose students submitted videos.”

About 15 UWindsor students submitted a video to the project, which will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. Tuesday at conspirare.org/all-of-us/.

This fall, the UWindsor Chamber Choir will meet and rehearse virtually with Kotowich online.

“Choral music is supposed to be a group experience,” he says. “We learn to blend our voices and listen to one another and which voice part is emphasized and which has a supportive role, according to the score. However, our students need to be comfortable with this technology, adapting to the possibilities of new tech. Luckily, we have the flexibility in our curriculum to incorporate these changes.”

The Chamber Choir is planning to perform a modified version of its annual Festival of Christmas online as a virtual concert.

The featured work will be Brother Heinrich’s Christmas, a fable set to music by John Rutter. The lyrics are about Heinrich Suso, a 14th-century Dominican abbot who, according to legend, notated the carol In dulci jubilo after it had been sung to him by a band of angels; he is unexpectedly aided to finish it by Sigismund, his donkey.

—Susan McKee