This Saturday and Sunday at First Congregational Church in Long Beach will have the world premiere performance of a new musical work by Curtis Heard, the dedicated and talented Choir teacher at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School, and Lesléa Newman, author of October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard.
Shepard, a gay twenty-one year-old University of Wyoming student, was lured from a bar by two young men, then beaten, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, and left to die. Five days later, Lesléa Newman arrived on campus to give the keynote speech for the University of Wyoming’s Gay Awareness Week. October Mourning is Newman’s deeply personal response to the events of that tragic day and its brutal aftermath. The work of poetic imagination explores the impact of the vicious crime through fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence to which Matthew was tied, the deer that kept watch beside him, and even Matthew himself. The stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for those too young to remember and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life and legacy.
About a year ago, Curtis Heard was commissioned to set some of the poems to music for a dramatic production of October Mourning. He found the words so compelling that the initial six poems eventually became nineteen. Heard also wrote underscoring for the remaining poems. He is excited to be presenting the entire work at First Congregational Church in downtown Long Beach with the Sanctuary Choir, soloists, and a chamber orchestra. The Wilson High School Studio Singers and Concert Choir have also been asked to sing a few selections. It is expected that the collaboration between poetry, music, orchestra and choir will have a dramatic impact on the work as a whole.
Leslea Newman, the author of the poems, will be present as well.