Conspirare, a choral group based in Austin, Texas, recently recorded "Considering Matthew Shepard." It's a 100-minute oratorio by the group's director, Craig Hella Johnson.

Editor's Note: This audio contains language some listeners may find offensive.

Conductor and composer Craig Hella Johnson leads the Austin, Texas-based choral group Conspirare.

(Photo: Courtesy Conspirare)

Matthew Shepard -- the gay Wyoming teenager who became a national figure after he was beaten to death in 1998 -- has inspired plays, documentaries and books.

Now he’s the subject of a choral piece, a 100-minute oratorio called “Considering Matthew Shepard” that explores his life, death and legacy. Conspirare, a choral group based in Austin, Texas, released the debut recording this month.

Craig Hella Johnson, who leads Conspirare, composed the piece. It features lyrics taken from Shepard's writing as well as dark passages about the group that picketed his funeral. And it opens with a sweeping depiction of the Wyoming landscape called “Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass.”

Jason Marsden is executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

(Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Shepard Foundation)

Johnson spoke with Colorado Matters’ Ryan Warner about how and why he wrote the piece.

Jason Marsden, executive director of the Denver-based Matthew Shepard Foundation, also spoke with Warner. Marsden helped Johnson do research for the piece, and gives talks that accompany performances.

Watch Conspirare perform the opening passage in concert:

Conspirare performs "Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass" from the oratorio "Considering Matthew Shepard" by Craig Hella Johnson.