News / Arts

Tempo Queer challenges orthodoxies about classical music

LGBTIQ+ compositions find their home at Brunswick venue

Georgina Lewis and Coady Green with the Stuart & Sons grand piano at Tempo Rubato.

Mark Phillips

TWO brand new compositions will be premiered during a series of concerts in Brunswick throughout June to celebrate LGBTIQ+ classical musicians and composers.

Each Friday in June, classical music venue Tempo Rubato in Breese Street will host the Tempo Queer series curated by concert pianist Coady Green, a Brunswick resident who spent 12 years living and working in London before returning to his home town in 2016.

Green conceived of the series, which ran for the first time last year, to recognise the contribution of Queer composers throughout the history of classical music, and to provide a forum where works by contemporary LGBTIQ+ composers can be performed.

“In terms of LGBT+ representation, classical music is actually quite backwards, it’s quite, quite far behind,” Green said.

“And within the classical music genre, music that is specifically told from a LGBT+ perspective is quite rare.”

Nineteenth century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is probably the most celebrated homosexual composer in the history of classical music, although he attempted to keep his sexuality hidden during his lifetime, while the 20th century English composer Benjamin Britten lived an openly Gay lifestyle.

Get more stories like this delivered to your inbox

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Tempo Queer grew out of conversations Green had with Miranda Hill, the artistic director of Homophonic!, which has been commissioning new works by Queer composers and putting on chamber music concerts during the Midsumma Festival for 13 years.

The series begins next Friday, June 2 with a performance by the Divisi Chamber Singers accompanied by Green on Tempo Rubato’s unusual 202 key Stuart & Sons grand piano. One of the two new works, ‘Data Collection: Gum Trees’ by young composer Kip McLachlin, will be debuted that night.

The series will conclude on June 30 when Green will combine with bass baritone singer Adrian Tamburini and award-winning composer Kevin March’s ‘Deluge of Stars’ will be performed for the first time.

Each of the concerts will run for about 90 minutes.

Win a complimentary double pass to the opening night of Tempo Queer on June 2 or to the closing night on June 30 by answering this question:

What is the name of the new composition by Kevin March which will have its debut during Tempo Queer?

Email your answer with your name and phone number to with ‘Tempo Queer’ in the subject line. Please also indicate your preferred night of June 2 or June 30. (NB: you must be a Brunswick Voice subscriber to be eligible for this giveaway.)

When it came to a venue for the concert series, Tempo Rubato was a natural choice – and not only because it is a short walk from Green’s house in Brunswick.

The venue opened in 2019 in a former warehouse in Breese Street and has deliberately challenged the rules and orthodoxies of the classical music world from day one.

There is no dress code, dogs and children are welcome, and audience members can take drinks from the bar to their seats.

“When Cody presented the idea of Tempo Queer we were really delighted and it fits very closely in with our ethos here,” said venue manager Georgina Lewis, who is also a pianist.

“[Tempo Rubato owner] Georgie Imberger definitely opened this space as a place where people can feel like they can just come here and be themselves and to break down some of that traditional idea of classical music and the idea of it belonging to the old world – and even this sort of history it has of composers having to hide their sexuality.

“So the idea of having Tempo Queer here was completely natural for us. And we completely trust Cody’s curation and directing so we knew it would be hit, which it was, and we’re delighted to do it again this year.”

Green has performed around the world – including in a Buddhist temple in the Himalayas – but says Tempo Rubato is a special place that has become almost a second home.

“It feels like in a place in New York, where you’re in the middle of a city street, but then there’s a classical music venue behind the door. That doesn’t happen often in Australia, in Melbourne,” he said.

“This has been completely embraced by the top musicians in Melbourne, and actually, nationally, and internationally.

“When it first opened, I think the very senior classical musicians all looked and thought, what’s this place about?

“And we all came here and tried it out, and absolutely loved it. So I think in a way, it’s changed Melbourne’s classical music landscape. It’s a really vibrant venue.”

Coady Green at work on the grand piano at Tempo Rubato.

Green said the new composition by Kevin March, who along with Kip McLachlin was a recipient of a Flourish Arts Recovery Grant from Merri-bek Council, was a coup for Tempo Queer.

The work is partly inspired by the first images from the James Webb space telescope.

It also has a symbolic meaning related to the growing number of LGBT+ role models which are now becoming more visible for young Queer people for the first time.

“Kevin wanted to write a piece inspired by this growing number of LGBT role models especially for Tempo Queer because he said festivals celebrating LGBT perspectives in music were never heard of when he was growing up. And so he finds this very moving and wanted to write a piece celebrating that.

“So it’s deluge of stars as far as the pictures from space, but also a deluge of LGBT stars.”

Tickets for Tempo Queer are available from the Tempo Rubato website or on the door for $30/$21 concession.