Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Bringing gay composers to life

Ottawa concert to raise money for LGBT people in Russia

Peter Zanette is the founder and main organizer of Colours Care, a May 6 concert celebrating LGBT composers to benefit LGBT Russians. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

Peter Zanette needed to find an outlet for his rage and concern about the human rights abuses of LGBT people in Russia.

Zanette, a familiar, friendly face in Ottawa’s queer community, says he was glued to the TV set, watching the news coverage of the social and political unrest in Russia, initially at a loss as to what he could do to help.

“Around Christmas I was thinking it through. I was seeing all this crap going on . . . horrific stuff going on,” he says. “I can sit on my couch and raise my fist, but I’d rather stand up and do something.”

Combining his love of classical music and more than 20 years of professional and volunteer production and stage management experience, Zanette came up with the idea of organizing a benefit concert to celebrate LGBT composers while raising money for LGBT people in Russia.

“I’m just putting my skill and my lack of skills into it, filling in the gaps and getting help from here and there,” he says. “When I did initially talk about it, I got a good vibe. It was a good incentive.”

The Colours Care chamber music concert will take place May 6 at Southminster United Church at 7pm. The repertoire will include Tchaikovsky, Benjamin Britten, Chopin, Reynaldo Hahn and Franz Schubert. There will also be some Leonard Bernstein — possibly some songs from West Side Story — and you might hear some jazz. “It’s significant that the concert’s on the eve of Tchaikovsky’s birthday, so we’ll emphasize that, but at the same time, it’s also highlighting other stuff, and less-known stuff, and that’s good,” he says. “There’s going to be a variety.”

Zanette came up with the name Colours Care in an effort to highlight diversity and unity.

“The word colour — as in rainbow — but colour means in the larger sense your skin colour, your political colour,” he says. “It’s a non-partisan, non-political event.”

Although he says it’s a non-partisan event, he has invited MPs and hopes supporters from all walks of life will attend. One familiar face concert-goers will see is Zelda Marshall. Much loved for her drag performances and community work, Marshall will be performing the first movement of Schubert’s Opus Posthumous 143, a piano sonata in A minor.

“It will be the first time I’ve performed a classical piano sonata in front of an audience in over 30 years,” she says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

While some music lovers think Schubert was gay, Zelda sees him more as a man who had sex with men (MSM).

“Whatever his sexual adventures were, he caught syphilis in 1822, and this was the first piano sonata he wrote after his experience with syphilis,” Marshall says. “You hear in the music imagery of heavy breathing and just lethargy that comes with being constantly ill. I drew a parallel between syphilis victims of the early 19th century and AIDS victims of the late 20th century and early 21st century, so I want to dedicate this performance to clients of ACO [the AIDS Committee of Ottawa] and Bruce House.”

Other performers include Roddy Ellias, Roland Graham, Gordon Johnston, Matthew Larkin, D Kai Ma, Andrew Mah and Ralitsa Tcholakova. If you’re busy on May 6, Zanette recommends buying a ticket to donate to a low-income person.

“The net proceeds will go through Jer’s Vision because they have established links to a Russian LGBT group,” he says. “As I build up and maybe get my own charitable status, we’ll see what the future beholds. I hope it’s not a one-off. I don’t think it will be.”