Gay Men’s Chorus Salutes Bernstein, Remembers Matthew Shepard

The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus performs at All Saints Episcopal Church on Sunday, March 17. Photo Credit: Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus

The Original Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus offers a musical celebration of life on Sunday, March 17—a centennial musical salute to the great American composer Leonard Bernstein and a somber reflection on the legacy of Matthew Shepard 20 years after his brutal murder.

Founder and current artistic director Dr. Gary Keating will conduct the two-part program at All Saints Episcopal Church. The first half of the program will feature selections from Bernstein’s most famous works, including “West Side Story,” “On the Town” and his comic operetta “Candide.”  

Keating is particularly excited about “Gloria Tibi,” a movement from the composer’s unconventional and theatrical 1970s setting of the Roman Catholic mass.

“It’s performed with bongos by men’s chorus, so it’s definitely unconventional,” he explained. “One of the things I love about it is it reminds me of the [Johannes] Brahms German Requiem because it doesnt use liturgical music, instead relying on poetry to speak to the people who are left behind.

Bernstein identified strongly with his Jewish faith and heritage, so the composers interpretation of a Christian religious service will also interest audiences, Keating promised. 

The Chorus is dedicating the second half of the program, Changing Hearts,” a special, six-piece set, to Shepard and others who have been the victims of gay-hate crimes. Scenes from The Laramie Project,” the 2000 play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project,are being interspersed between the diverse musical selections.

According to Keating, the program, accompanied by a “mini-orchestra” of eight instrumentalists, is a poignant reminder of how far the LGBTQ community has come, and how much work remains. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

            “Twenty years later, Matthew Shepard’s untimely and tragic passing is one we will never forget. We hope this performance inspires the community to support the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s efforts to replace hate and embrace human dignity and diversity through its various programs,” Keating said.

The concert will conclude with another Bernstein classic, the lyrical ballad “Make Our Garden Grow” from “”

            “It’s a profoundly beautiful and moving song,” Keating said“We gain wisdom through life and even though Matthew Shepard didnt live a long life, he inspired wisdom for an entire country to become involved, to learn to accept each other. I know people are going to be moved.

The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus presents “A Celebration of Life, Love and Music” on Sunday, March 17 at 5 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church, 333 Tarpon Dr. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $30 online at TheFTLGMC.org or by calling 954-832-0060.