Thousands turned out to celebrate the first ever Classical Pride at London’s Barbican Centre on 7 July.
Conceived and curated by conductor Oliver Zeffman, the orchestral concert paid tribute to enormously vast body of classical music that has been contributed by queer composers over the centuries, as well as celebrating the diversity of the the LGBTQ+ classical music community of today.
The evening featured performances from trailblazing classical stars including Pavel Kolesnikov, Samson Tsoy, Davóne Tines, Nicky Spence and Ella Taylor.
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was joined by an LGBTQ+ community choir, specially assembled for the occasion, as they stood in front of a big rainbow-inspired backdrop.
Host Nick Grimshaw took the audience through some of the history behind the contribution of queer composers over the centuries, and the present day, opening a door to the world of classical music for those who follow the genre and newcomers alike.
Zeffman lead the performers, orchestra and choir in works by Tchaikovsky, Poulenc, Bernstein, Caroline Shaw, as well as a new commission from renowned British composer Julian Anderson.
The concert opened with Leonard Berstein’s (1918-1990) dazzling overture to Candide, a vibrant work full of the flair, verve and colour that the composer himself embodied.
Elsewhere during the show, Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) heart-wrenching Romeo and Juliet, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy, expressed the burning romance that the composer was unable to see fulfilled in his own life – suppressing his homosexuality and entering into a disastrous marriage.
Concerto for Two Pianos was performed by Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy, two pianists at the very top of their profession, and partners in music and life. The composition is by French composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), who was both openly gay and a devout catholic.
The evening finished with a surprise performance of the White Lotus theme, which received a standing ovation from the audience.
Classical Pride was held in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and GAY TIMES with support from Mastercard, and was the first time any major concert hall or orchestra anywhere in the UK or Europe has given a classical orchestral concert for Pride.