The Stonewall Chorale, the nation’s first LGBTQ+ chorus, now in its 47th year, performed the oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shepard,” by Craig Hella Johnson, for Upper School students during their assembly on October 6. The concert commemorated the life and tragic murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, on the 25th anniversary of his kidnapping and beating.

Based in New York City, The Stonewall Chorale’s mission is to enrich people’s lives through learning and performing beautiful choral music, and to nurture and celebrate the community they create together. They perform three major concerts each year and are often invited to perform at special events around New York City.

Riverdale faculty member Dr. Terry Colliton, Middle School mathematics teacher and Safe Space Coordinator for the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Department on the Hill Campus, is a member of the Chorale and performed at the assembly. In addition, two Riverdale alumni, Julia Millison ‘08 and Debbie Mincer ‘75, are members of the Chorale. Dr. Colliton had the idea to bring the group to Riverdale after discussions with colleagues.

“Some of them were unfamiliar with Matthew Shepard’s story or the subsequent anti-hate laws that were passed in the wake of the case,” she said. “His story is an important event in the history of the LGBTQ+ community. The oratorio is a stunning way to share about Matthew’s life.” In order to prepare the US students for the assembly, Dr. Colliton worked with members of the English Department, including teacher Dr. Sarah Banks, to explore sections of the libretto with students.

The sense of community with The Stonewall Chorale is a central point for Dr. Colliton, as it was for many of the faculty and students in attendance. Remarked one student, “Not only was it meaningful for the queer community at school, like myself, who got to validate their own experiences and be surrounded by beautiful queerness, but it was also so great for the rest of the Riverdale community to be able to witness and engage in queer history.”

Another student wrote, the performance was, “…overflowing with emotions, very moving and an emotionally connecting experience. I felt a sense of urgency within the singing. This was one of the best assemblies.” A faculty member wrote, “The performance was amazing! Beautiful voices, healing energy, and true community building all around. I loved it. It means a lot – it made me feel there can be a place for us, for all of us, because we’re all here together.”