Photo by Anastasia Chepinska via Unsplash
The month of June is cause for celebration….and that celebration is Pride!!!
The world of classical music simply would not exist as we know it without members of the LGBTQ+ community. Historical gay composers like Handel, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns and Benjamin Britten formed the bedrock of the art, while these innovative trail-blazers truly shaped the future of music. And many did so under the weight of discrimination and often open hostility, yet their creative spark prevailed and the musical tapestry of today is richer and more vibrant than ever!
Angela Morley was an English composer, conductor and arranger, born in Leeds in 1924. She transitioned to female in 1972 and moved from London to Los Angeles in 1979 . Angela was the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Academy Award, earning nominations for The Little Prince (1974) (collaborating with songwriters Lerner and Loewe) and The Slipper and the Rose (1976) (collaborating with Robert and Richard Sherman). Here is her score for the 1979 classic, Watership Down.
Billy Strayhorn was an American jazz composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger, who collaborated with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington for nearly three decades. His compositions include “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.” An openly gay black man, he’d initially set on a career in classical music as a composer and pianist but found it impossible to break into that historically white-dominated world. Here is a recording from 1964 with Billy himself singing and playing “Lush Life.”
Wendy Carlos is a trans woman and a pioneer in the realms of soundtrack and electronic music. A graduate of Columbia University with advanced degrees in Mathematics and Physics, she has a profound understand of the science of sound, and her album Switched-On Bach introduced the synthesizer as a modern musical instrument to a wide popular audience. Her scores for A Clockwork Orange and The Shining incorporated classical themes into contemporary creations. Here is her newly reissued soundtrack from the 1982 movie, Tron.
Rufus Wainwright comes from a legacy of folk music royalty and slips so seamless between genres he has practically invented his own! A modern troubadour who has interwoven the artistry of Shakespeare and Judy Garland into his own musical language, Rufus has also composed two operas, the most recent Hadrian which premiered at The Canadian Opera Company in 2018; it’s the story of Roman Emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous.