Happy Pride Month! Enjoy this mixtape of LGBTQ+ composers—old-school and contemporary—curated by the NEC community in honor of #Pride2021.
Today is Pride Day, which honors the date when the first pride march was held in New York City in 1970, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In honor of this holiday and LGBTQ+ musicians everywhere, we are pleased to bring you this mixtape of LGBTQ+ composers, crowdsourced and curated by the NEC community in honor of #Pride2021. Happy Pride Month to all!
Bassoonist Carson Merritt ’25 was one of several who added Tchaikovsky to the list:
“I remember discovering Tchaikovsky was LGBTQ+ while studying his 6th Symphony. Following after his death, the 6th Symphony left a mark on classical music because it made us question the lives that LGBTQ+ people were forced to live, along with how music was used as an expression of the life.”
A collection of Tchaikovsky's previously unpublished letters, first published in Russian in 2009 and in English in 2018, have created a more well-rounded portrait of the cherished composer. As music historian & Princeton professor Simon Morrison wrote of the volume, “Turns out, the genius was also a human being —funny, coarse, germaphobic, borderline alcoholic, with great friends and supportive siblings. Gay? Fine by them.”
Margie Apfelbaum, Director of Large Ensemble Administration, sent us our closing track:
“My song is “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles by Jerry Herman. The lyrics completely sum up my personal feelings. It's a great anthem for Pride. I saw the show on Broadway in 2010 with Kelsey Grammer playing the lead—great show! Growing up, Broadway cast recordings were part of our family soundtrack. Jerry Herman wrote Mame and Hello Dolly! which were both part of the rotation of LP's that played in our house.”
When La Cage aux Folles previewed in Boston in 1983, composer Jerry Herman spoke of his nerves, then relief at its warm reception: “A man singing a love song to another man—I don't think that's ever been done in a Broadway musical before ... Frankly, I didn't know whether or not they'd throw stones. The audience gave it an ovation. That's when I started to think, 'We've done something right.'”
Others sent compositions by non-LGBTQ+ composers that simply spoke to the feeling of Pride Month—violinist Wangrui Ray Xu ’22 shared his favorite Brahms recommendation:
“I was just listening to Brahms's Symphony No. 3 and that's the piece I would always recommend to others. Maybe it is not that strictly related to the LGBTQ+ topic? [But] you know, the feeling of great determination exists in that piece really means something to me.”
Want to contribute to the playlist? It's not too late!