UAlbany premiering ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ virtual performance by student choir

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Empty theater

Empty theater at the University at Albany. (Elijah Guerrero / UAlbany)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The University at Albany’s choral director and choir students are key players in a global music event.

UAlbany’s traditional choral ensemble concert was canceled in March. Michael Pfitzer, the Director of Choral Studies helped put together an alternative: A virtual performance with 477 singers 45 choirs from Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. They’ll sing the oratorio “All of Us” from “Considering Matthew Shepard,” and the oratorio will premiere via UAlbany at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

“I wanted to create a valuable learning experience for our performing ensemble students even though we couldn’t share the stage together,” said Pfitzer. “The finished product will be the result of a tremendous amount of teamwork and collaboration by hundreds of people, with our students taking the lead in presenting the event and their ideas driving the structure and the content.”

The premiere includes a Zoom question and answer segment with “Considering Matthew Shepard” composer Craig Hella Johnson and director Elliott Forrest. Anthony Leva of Niskayuna, a choral assistant in the music department who graduated from UAlbany in May, will moderate the discussion.

“I feel like in these uncertain times—where concerts are being canceled and everyone is being so isolated—it’s really important that we find a way to connect with one another virtually, and especially to bring the gift of music and choral singing to those who might not get to experience it otherwise,” said Leva, a double major in music and psychology. He said the experience made his “gloomy spring” a ton of fun, adding that he “actually wasn’t even required to participate in this project.”

To create the presentation, UAlbany worked with Conspirare, the Austin, Texas-based and Grammy-winning virtuoso. Conspirare’s founding artistic director composed “Considering Matthew Shepard,” and its singers originated the oratorio. “I had the idea to reach out Conspirare to see if it might like to help us put together a virtual choir on this piece, which has a text dealing with unity, togetherness and overcoming the terrible parts of our world,” said Pfitzer.

Conpsirare’s singers recorded tracks so students could learn the parts along with another voice. “The students recorded on their phones, computers, tablets, or any device with a microphone,” said Pfitzer.

Instrumentalists from the original album recording of “Considering Matthew Shepard” created musical accompaniment, and a crew of audio and video designers transformed hundreds of individual audio tracks into a single virtual chorus.


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