Attention all classical music fans, Classical Pride is back and this time around it is a five-day extravaganza.

In partnership with ViiV Healthcare and GAY TIMES, Classical Pride will take place from 3 to 7 July 2024.

After the success of the inaugural event last year, Oliver Zeffman, Founder and Artistic Director, has announced today (6 March) the expansion of Classical Pride to be a five-day showcase of the breadth and diversity of LGBTQIA+ composers and artists – past and present.

The event will kick-off with a brand new event, titled Classical Drag, which will take place at the Outernet. Zeffman will be joined by a truly gag worthy line-up with Barbs, Snow White Trash, Beau Jangles, Freddie Love and Drag Race UK alum Vinegar Strokes.

Judges and special guests include soprano Pumeza Matshikiza, star operatic tenor Nicky Spence, London legend Jonny Woo and Drag Race All Stars contestants Monét X Change and Thorgy Thor.

No drag event is complete without a lip-sync smackdown. This time however, the showdown gets a theatrical twist with the infusion of operas including La bohème and Tosca, a Philip Glass tribute and a surprise interval act featuring emerging stars of London’s vivacious queer performance scene.

Tickets are on sale now. Click here for the link to see Classical Drag.

On Friday 5 July, My Beloved Man will showcase London’s LGBTQIA+ The Fourth Choir, conducted by Nicholas Chalmers. Hosted at Milton Court, the performance will journey through the 39-year relationship between Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. The choir, formed in 2013, will have a program that includes texts read by Petroc Trelawney and music by Britten’s contemporaries Imogen Holst and Michael Tippett. (Tickets are on sale now, link here.)

The performance will also feature the world debut of a new commission by Isobel Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), accompanied by a carefully crafted text written by a refugee relocated by one of Classical Pride’s charity partners, Rainbow Railroad.

The weekend festivities start with A Proud Future at St Giles, Cripplegate, situated in the mediaeval parish church at the heart of the Barbican centre. LGBTQIA+ students from the Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance will perform a series of deeply personal concerts of LGBTQIA+ music – soon to be announced.

The finale of the Classical Pride festival starts with a free performance of Julius Eastman’s Gay Guerilla in the foyer of the Barbican. The Julius Eastman Ensemble, brought together by Stephen Upshaw, will perform an arrangement of the piece by US composer Jessie Montgomery.

Gay Guerilla has been described as an improvisatory, minimalist take on Martin Luther’s 16th-century hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’, reimagined as a manifesto about being a gay, Black man. Eastman said: “What I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest – Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, and a homosexual to the fullest. It is important that I learn how to be, by that I mean accept everything about me.”

The climax of the 2024 festival will also see the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Zeffman, perform a rich body of work from a variety of LGBTQIA+ composers past and present. It will be hosted by Nick Grimshaw, who will be joined by soloists Pavel Kolesnikov, Pumeza Matshikiza, and Russell Thomas, alongside an LGBTQIA+ community choir. (Tickets are on sale now, link here.)

The program opens with ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’, by Aaron Copland. Although the piece was written in 1942 and commissioned as a wartime gesture of patriotism, Copland had a more subversive aim in mind: “It was the common man, after all, who was doing all the dirty work in the war and the army. He deserved a fanfare.”

Highlights of the concert will include a new commission from US composer Jake Heggie featuring soprano Pumeza Matshikiza, setting a text by Taylor Mac.

Saint-Saëns’ ‘Piano Concerto No. 2’, with soloist Pavel Kolesnikov, will map the inner turmoil of the 19th century composer’s suppressed sexuality and failed marriage. This will play alongside Tchaikovsky’s Valse Sentimentale, which is a foreshadowing of Cassandra Miller’s Round.

Tenor Russell Thomans and the LGBTQIA+ Community Choir are set to perform Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3, ‘Song of the Night’, with a text by Persian poet Rumi.

Zeffman tells GAY TIMES: “At the inaugural Classical Pride concert last year, I was incredibly moved by the warm reception from the industry and audience alike. Now we‘re back with an expanded edition, celebrating the significant contribution the LGBTQ+ community makes – and has always made – to classical music.

“This year we’re showcasing both world-famous and emerging LGBTQIA+ musicians, commissioning a diverse group of composers and broadening the range of styles and ensembles on offer. I’m particularly excited to be conducting the LSO, as well as making my first appearance in a drag show!”

Deborah Waterhouse, CEO ViiV Healthcare, President GSK Global Health and Chair of GSK’s LGBTQ+ Council, says: “Last year’s Classical Pride concert was a fantastic recognition of the important contribution the LGBTQIA+ community has made to the classical music genre.

“We’re proud to once again partner with Oliver Zeffman on this year’s expanded programme which will celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in all its glory and importantly, raise money for the partner charities. It’s so important that companies like ViiV and GSK continue to support events like this to champion diversity, equity and inclusion.”

All proceeds from Classical Pride in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and GAY TIMES will go to LGBTQ+ charities, including Terrence Higgins Trust, Rainbow Railroad, and Amplifund which is GAY TIMES’ philanthropic initiative with GiveOut.

Tickets for Classical Pride go on general sale from 15 March. Tickets to Classical Drag, My Beloved Man and London Symphony Orchestra are on sale now.