The LGBTQ+ Chorus of Long Beach opens season 34 on Saturday, November 18, with a choral oratorio commemorating 25 years of the Matthew Shepard story. Using poetic imagination, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard is a stunning cycle of monologues inspired by various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. 

Local Long Beach composer Curtis Heard gives musical life to the masterful poetry of Lesléa Newman’s book. “I continue to be moved by Newman’s powerful language and how it is still relevant 25 years after Matthew Shepard’s death,” says Heard, who serves as Music Director at First Congregational Church of Long Beach and Choir Director at Wilson High School. “Although the text is quite specific to Matthew Shepard, the emotional impact is universal to all hate crimes,” added Heard. “I hope audiences will appreciate the work on an artistic level but also be motivated to do more to help make this a more compassionate world.”

Under the direction of Artistic Director Chris Smith, the 50-voice South Coast Chorale will be joined by the First Congregational Church Sanctuary and Handbell Choir, members of the Landmark Theatre Company, the Long Beach Youth Chorus, and members of the Wilson High School Choir, accompanied by the Musique Sur La Mer Chamber Orchestra. 

“South Coast Chorale was honored to have been part of one of the original performances of the piece eight years ago,” says Smith, who has been directing the Chorale since 2012. “The combination of Curtis’ music and Lesléa’s text is a truly evocative experience, and when we thought about how to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Matthew’s passing, there was no question that we needed to reprise this work and present it in a new and even bigger way.”

Long Beach leaders Griselda Suarez (Arts Council for Long Beach) and Sunshine Daye (spiritual leader and speaker) will narrate the performance. South Coast Chorale’s Board President Tony Almero-Stokes notes that “building bridges through song is a key focus of the South Coast Chorale’s mission, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with five local arts organizations, as well as Griselda and Sunshine. This combination of community voices promises to result in a powerful commemoration and tribute to a story that still resonates far beyond the LGBTQ+ community.” 

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. A pre-concert discussion on the impacts of the Matthew Shepard story and the creation of the oratorio starts at 6:00 p.m.

Tickets range from $25 to $65 and are available online at Group discounts are also available.