Since its inception over 50 years ago, London Pride has acted as a flashpoint of activism, solidarity and celebration in the capital. This summer, it will be joined by another ground-breaking event, Classical Pride, Europe’s first LGBTQ+ classical orchestral concert, the brainchild of innovative conductor Oliver Zeffman. The concert, which takes place at the Barbican Hall (7 July) will shine a light on the diverse contributions of queer composers to classical music, featuring masters like Bernstein, Tchaikovsky and Poulenc alongside in-demand contemporaries, Caroline Shaw and Julian Anderson.
In recent years, Zeffman has built a reputation as a forward-thinking figure in the classical music scene, motivated by a desire to ensure classical music remains relevant to the wider cultural conversation. In a recent effort to cast his net beyond devoted listeners, Zeffman took his programme outside the austere, traditional concert halls to more accessible venues, including the V&A, the British Library and the Cutty Sark. This same spirit infuses his Classical Pride concert this summer, where he shares the Barbican Hall’s stage with renowned former radio DJ Nick Grimshaw as well as an LGBTQ+ community choir formed especially for the concert.
Alongside celebrating their immense contributions to the classical repertoire, the concert’s programme also allows audiences to reflect on the repression and conflict that plagued early queer composers. Opening with Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, a work Zeffman describes as “frankly very camp”, the programme then moves to Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Piano’s, offering a moment for audiences to reflect on the composer’s struggle to reconcile his sexuality and devout Catholicism. Performed by pianists Pavel Kolsnikov and Samson Tsoy, partners in both music and life, it is hard to ignore the stark difference in experience between the performers and the composer. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet will close the concert, a piece filled with both immense love and unthinkable pain, which Zeffman sees as a reflection of “what Tchaikovsky couldn’t express in his own personal life”. Contemporary composers and champions of LGBTQ+ music, Anderson and Shaw, lighten the evening’s programme, alongside a surprise encore which will be drawn from popular culture.
With its exciting programme and innovative leadership, Classical Pride provides a long-overdue opportunity to celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ artists to classical music and showcase music’s unique ability to bring communities together. So, why not contribute to history this Summer at Europe’s first Classical Pride?
Oliver Zeffman will record Caroline Shaw’s Is a Rose with soloists from the concert, for release by Platoon over Pride weekend (30 June).
For more details, visit barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2023/event/classical-pride