“There is a huge amount of classical music, and a significant amount of it has been composed by LGBTQ+ artists“, says one of the UK’s leading openly gay conductors, Oliver Zeffman, in Gay Times. This awareness resulted in an unprecedented event in the classical music scene: the first concert in the UK to feature entirely LGBTQ+ programming.
In this article we explore the details of this groundbreaking event, called ‘Classical Pride’, a concert taking place on 7 July at London’s Barbican Hall that promises an unforgettable evening of musical performances, all centred around LGBTQ+ culture and experience.
How Classical Pride honours the great LGBTQ+ composers of classical music
Zeffman conceived ‘Classical Pride’ in 2022, on the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in London. The idea was simple but powerful: to create a concert in which all the pieces were composed by LGBTQ+ artists.
The opening of Classical Pride on 7 July at London’s Barbican Hall will be Leonard Bernstein’s overture to Candide, a work that expresses the spirit of the openly homosexual composer with vibrancy and vivacity (in 1976 Bernstein decided he no longer wanted to keep his sexual orientation hidden, left his wife and started living with conductor Tom Cothran).
This was followed by a performance of the Concerto for two pianos by French composer Francis Poulenc by pianists Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy, partners in both life and profession. Poulenc was a unique individual, a man who was not afraid to openly come out as gay at a time when homosexuality was viewed with great prejudice, while maintaining a deep devotion to the Catholic faith.
During ‘Classical Pride’, the audience will also have the opportunity to hear two of the most sought-after personalities in the world of contemporary composition, Caroline Shaw and Julian Anderson, who are openly queer.
Zeffman’s main goal was to bring together the brightest queer pioneers in the field of classical music to demonstrate how important their contribution to this musical genre is.
As Zeffman stated, the key point of the programme is to “show the diversity of classical music“.
Zeffman hopesthat Classical Pride will dispel some of the common misconceptions associated with classical music. He explains that many different musical forms are grouped together as ‘classical’ and that, in reality, there is a great diversity of style within the genre that people don’t always realise. “It can be all kinds; a symphony orchestra, a singer, electronic music. There is so much variety, and people still write classical music today” Zeffman adds.
For ‘Classical Pride’, Zeffman chose to perform Tchaikovsky’s emotional Romeo & Juliet. Despite the heterosexual love story at its core, the composition reflects the composer’s sexual orientation, which he could not fully experience due to the social constraints of his time. Born in 1840 in the Russian Empire, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was forced to repress his homosexuality and endure a disastrous marriage. Tchaikovsky’s music is imbued with a desire and passion that is still incredibly moving and powerful today.
Proceeds from Classical Pride will go to charity
The event also provides an opportunity to support LGBTQ+ causes globally. All proceeds from ‘Classical Pride’ will go to three charities, including Rainbow Railroad, a non-profit organisation that helps LGBTQ+ people in risk situations with emergency relocation, crisis response, financial assistance and other forms of support. Other beneficiaries will be the Terrence Higgins Trust, a UK-based HIV organisation, and Amplifund, a GAY TIMES philanthropic initiative with GiveOut, which raises funds to support LGBTQ+ people in countries where they face serious challenges.
Classical Pride is but the tip of the iceberg in recognising the vast amount of classical music produced by LGBTQ+ talent, and there is certainly an ambition to make this an annual event on an ever-increasing scale. “I would like to think that this will be the first in a large series of Classical Pride events each year“, Zeffman concludes. Tickets for Classical Pride are on sale now at barbican.org.uk.