Classical Pride returns with 5-day festival with media partner Classic FM

12 April 2024, 13:08 | Updated: 12 April 2024, 13:21

Classical Pride returns for a second year in July 2024, curated by conductor Oliver Zeffman.
Classical Pride returns for a second year in July 2024, curated by conductor Oliver Zeffman. Picture: Matthew Johnson

By Siena Linton

Now in its second year, the festival will take place across London venues in July, with events ranging from symphonic concerts to a classical drag race.

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After its inaugural success in July 2023, Classical Pride returns for a second year in 2024 – with an even bigger celebration of LGBTQ+ composers and performers in classical music.

Spread across five days at venues throughout London, the festival will see new and returning names from prominent figures in the classical music industry and LGBTQ+ community, with Classic FM as its media partner.

In 2023, Classical Pride marked the first time a major classical organisation had celebrated Pride, with a packed-out concert at London’s Barbican hosted by Nick Grimshaw and featuring performances by Nicky Spence, Pavel Kolesnikov, Samson Tsoy, Davóne Tines, and Ella Taylor with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Classical Pride’s curator, Oliver Zeffman.

Read more: ‘A festival of what’s possible in the arts’ – meet the stars of Europe’s first Classical Pride concert

Ella Taylor and the CBSO perform The White Lotus theme live at Classical Pride

The festival’s curator and founder, conductor Oliver Zeffman told Classic FM: “Last year’s Classical Pride concert was an unforgettable experience. The warmth and enthusiasm from the audience – and from the music industry more generally – was incredibly touching; and so this has inspired me to come back with a bigger and bolder offering for this year.”

This year, Classical Pride kicks off on 3 July with a ‘Classical Drag!’ event in a musical play on the hit TV series RuPaul’s Drag Race, followed by three days of concerts spotlighting music written and performed by members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The judging panel for Classical Drag will include drag queens Monét X Change and Thorgy Thor, as well as operatic tenor Nicky Spence. Spence said: “Having had such a ball at Classical Pride last year, I’m gagged to be taking to the stage for this year’s drag show.

“Drag is a beautiful form of expression. Much like classical music, it encourages you to explore the most authentic version of yourself while finding a truly honest connection with your audience. What a great combination!”

Read more: 15 LGBTQ+ composers in classical music history that you probably already know

Tenor Peter Pears (left) and composer Benjamin Britten (right), partners in music, life and love.
Tenor Peter Pears (left) and composer Benjamin Britten (right), partners in music, life and love. Picture: Getty

The festival will also include an homage to the relationship between Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, in a performance by the London-based LGBTQ+ Fourth Choir of music by Britten and his contemporaries, interspersed with extracts from the letters Britten and Pears exchanged.

The concert also features the world premiere of a new commission for Classical Pride by Fleabag composer Isobel Waller-Bridge, who told Classic FM: “It’s such an honour to be writing a new piece for this year’s Classical Pride.

“The LGBTQ community is of course incredibly present in classical music, and it’s wonderful to shine a bright light onto that. It is a huge honour of mine that the lyrics to my choral piece will be written by a refugee relocated by the Rainbow Railroad charity.”

Elsewhere in the festival, talented LGBTQ+ students from London conservatoires perform a series of short concerts across one afternoon, and violist Stephen Upshaw presents a free performance of Julius Eastman’s Gay Guerilla – an exploration of the composer’s identity as a gay black man in 1970s America.

The festival’s celebratory finale sees Zeffman conduct the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, together with star soloists and an LGBTQ+ Community Choir, with music by Copland, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky and more.

“Fundamentally, LGBTQ+ artists have always been at the heart of classical music,” Zeffman said. “Now in this expanded festival we’re able to show off a broader range of music and styles and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community’s contribution to classical music in a major way.

“Personally, I’m thrilled to make my debut with the LSO as well as step into something completely new for me – performing in a drag show for the first time!”

Tickets are on sale now for Classical Pride 2024. Browse for more information and buy tickets here.