Exclusive: Carnegie Hall cancels concert linked to anti-LGBT group

Exclusive: Carnegie Hall cancels concert linked to anti-LGBT group


norman lebrecht

August 25, 2019

The British-born pianist Jack Gibbons was thrilled to be invited to play in a Carnegie Hall concert celebrating the centenary of US-Polish diplomatic relations. Then he found that it was being organised by an anti-LGBT lobbying group.

Here’s Jack’s story:

A few months ago I was deeply honored to be asked to play again at Carnegie Hall this autumn for an event that was described to me as celebrating 100 years of diplomatic relations between Poland and America (with in attendance a sea of specially invited guests from embassies, consulates, the UN and so forth). I had been asked to contribute the music of two composers who are central to my repertoire, Chopin and Gershwin, ending the evening with the latter’s Rhapsody in Blue. In addition I would be working with the soprano Angel Blue in extracts from Porgy and Bess (Angel Blue is about to open in the lead role of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s first production of Porgy and Bess in 30 years). Also invited to take part was the Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, and other distinguished artists, and in addition I would be working with soloists from the Polish National Ballet on a specially devised choreography of my own “authentic Gershwin” repertoire. It sounded like a dream concert and one I was only too happy to be a part of. The fact that I had yet to be told the name of the organisation behind the concert was odd, but in the light of the artists I would be working with it seemed unimportant at the time.

Fast forwarding a few months (and bear with me in this change of direction) at the end of July I was reading troubling reports from the BBC of a Polish weekly magazine called Gazeta Polska, who were offering printed stickers to their readers declaring LGBT-free zones using a chilling symbol of a black X superimposed on the rainbow flag. Further reading led to an equally chilling editorial from the Gazeta Polska’s editor Tomasz Sakiewicz describing LGBT as “an ideology that has all the features of a totalitarian one”, justifying the statement with nefarious comparisons with the tactics of the Communist and Nazi regimes.

Imagine my shock only minutes after reading these reports when I turned to the Carnegie Hall website and for the first time discovered that the concert I was due to take part in on October 24 was being “presented by the Gazeta Polska Community of America”. I immediately requested clarification from my contact in Warsaw, as well as from friends in the Polish community, and it quickly became apparent that there was no disguising the close affiliation with the Gazeta Polska magazine in Poland. The Carnegie Hall event had been benignly billed as “From Chopin to Gershwin” and I imagined that without any media scrutiny most New Yorkers would probably remain unaware of the anti-LGBT propaganda that lay behind a concert soon to be promoted throughout the city.

Needless to say I had no choice but to withdraw from the concert after discovering the link. It was not a decision I took lightly, but I could not with good conscience take part in an event that had connections to an organization that expressed views that I regarded as abhorrent and which were in opposition to everything I stood for. I also felt it my duty to let the other performers involved know the nature of the organisation behind the concert. After contacting both Charles Richard-Hamelin and Angel Blue and informing them of the activities of Gazeta Polska, they both had no hesitation in withdrawing from the event as well. And thus it was that I found myself in the unhappy position of dismantling what had at first seemed like a dream concert at Carnegie Hall. I was glad to read just today that the latest artist caught in the Gazeta Polska trap, the pianist Paul Bisaccia, has also wisely withdrawn from the event – not an easy thing to do given the allure of Carnegie Hall.

The sad aspect of all this is that music, more than any other art form, has the extraordinary ability to bring people together, to rise above prejudice, welcoming everyone, regardless of our differences, to its enchanting harmonies. On 26 July this year, the day I withdrew from the Carnegie Hall concert after learning of the Gazeta Polska connection, I wrote a Facebook post on the remarkable Astolphe de Custine. Astolphe de Custine was one of Chopin’s most ardent supporters and contained within his correspondence are some remarkable letters to Chopin, including an extraordinary one written after Chopin’s last public performance in Paris in 1848, containing these memorable lines: “Art, as you understand it, is the only thing that can unite mankind divided by the hard realities of life. One may love and understand one’s neighbour through Chopin.” Astolphe de Custine had good reason to write such words, having been persecuted for his homosexuality, at one point beaten and left for dead, and subject to the most vile homophobic attacks in the press; his remarks could not be more apposite here.

The Carnegie Hall date, Jack tells Slippedisc, has now been cancelled.


  • Classical Music Whisperer says:

    As a Carnegie Hall subscriber I often receive solicitations for these add on concerts by ethnic organizations. Frankly they are often just as good or better than the subscription concerts, but now I’ll have to look them over closely and beware. Thank you for paying attention and blowing the whistle on these hate mongers.

  • Alan says:

    Well done sir. The only way evil can thrive is if good men do nothing.

  • common sense says:

    Another proof that the music life is unfortunately under profound influence of the far left and false understanding of political correctness. Freedom of speech is no more.

    • Mathieu says:

      Yeah. Could you enlighten us and tell us in which way exactly freedom of speech (and whose freedom) has been infringed upon in this case? Thanks!

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        Yes. People who protest that freedom of speech is being denied often seem to suffer from the curious idea that the ideal of freedom of speech means that anyone should be free to say anything to anyone at any time. Is there not a corresponding freedom of hearing, whereby I should not have to listen to things I don’t like?

        • Bone says:

          Yes: if you are the host, you may ask the offender to cease speaking or leave; if you are not the host, you may ignore the comments or leave.
          Third option is new: tattle on someone. And it is working.

      • common sense says:

        Quite simple: artists have to withdraw from events that might be considered to be anyhow connected to alleged “right” groups in fear of ostracism.

        • Louise Norris says:

          He did not withdraw for fear of ostracism. He withdrew because he finds the sponsor’s anti-LGBTQ policies and behavior (which are documented, not alleged) abhorrent. There is nothing in his statement that indicates he’s worried about ramifications. Nor should he be.

          • common sense says:

            Sponsor’s anti-LBGTQ policies and behavior? Documented? Do you actually know who is the sponsor? I am afraid you don’t. Could you kindly enlighten us about the evidence you mention? You seem to base your judgement on second hand information or gossip.

        • Mathieu says:

          1. Clearly not the case here.

          2. Still not much to do with freedom of speech.

          But please go on…

        • Bruce says:

          No they don’t. Lisitsa and Netrebko (among others) are still getting plenty of work.

    • Alan says:

      Yawn. Another person who thinks freedom of speech actually means others have an obligation to listen. They can say what they like. No one is stopping them But we can all ignore them. And they certainly can’t expect artists who despise their views to support them.

    • Bill says:

      Your nom de plume is not reflected in your writing.

    • Jack says:

      So you would play this concert knowing what we all know now? Associating with bad people and causes is always wrong. Willem Mengelberg and Wilhelm Furtwangler found out the hard way.

      You apparently don’t see Mr. Gibbons’ decision as exercising his freedom of speech. I do.

      • common sense says:

        Apparently you do not understand the meaning of succumbing to propaganda. Yes, Mr. Gibbons’ decision is in his right. The reasons, however, of the general boycott might be connected to something of a nefarious nature: fear of making an informed decision and acting instead on the basis of rumors and slander.

    • 32VA says:

      You’ve mistaken SD for the Letters Page of the Daily Torygraph. Kindly repost your twisted screed there, where it will be eagerly accepted for publication – it is certainly unwanted here.

    • 32VA says:

      I see it’s still the 13th century in Poland?

    • Sheri says:

      Freedom of speech is alive and well; the musicians have expressed it. Political correctness is not the enemy here. That you would work so hard to allow a hateful organisation to thrive…it says a lot about you.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    I do wish people would stop talking about “the LGBT community”. Being gay is so very different from being trans. Gay men do not conceive themselves to be women. Lesbians do not conceive themselves to be men. Being gay is not a stage en route to being trans.

    • Anon says:

      Why does everybody have to have a label? We are people. Music is inclusive, which in today’s society is wonderful.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        “Why does everybody have to have a label?”

        Labels can be useful. People saying they were homosexual and thereby excluded from marrying someone they loved employed a label usefully.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        As the identitarian movement to answer your question. Everybody has been put into little, precious groups and if you are not inside one of those groups – or decide to speak for another group – watch out!! I’m afraid the identitarians started the divide and conquer movement long before anybody else. It is they who will decide who is acceptable and who is not. God, it’s awful.

    • Bruce says:

      Agree. Some people will have difficulty wrapping their minds around the different concepts, but some people will always have difficulty wrapping their minds around anything different from themselves.

      At the same time, those who want to discriminate are the ones who tend to group all the “deviants” together under one umbrella, forcing the rest of us to defend them all under one umbrella.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I think you’re rather confused about who really are the authoritarians.

        • Paul Brownsey says:

          Oh? Why don’t you tell us who are the authoritarians–but before you do, take on board this: that resistance to intolerance is not itself intolerance.

    • Eric says:

      The phrase is not meant to suggest that somehow all these subgroups are the same, but rather that they all have something in common, namely being a sexual minority often under threat.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        But the initialism is now used in such a way as to suggest an essential connection between being gay and being trans. Thus well-meaning education authorities go on about “LGBT relationships”–but T is not about ANY sort of relationships. Health authorities go on about “LGBT health needs” but those of a trans person are likely to be very different from those of a gay person. And there are signs that members o,f the general public are being misled by “LGBT” into thinking that being gay and being trans are much of a muchness. A commenter in The Scotsman columns this week interpreted trans in terms of “swinging both ways”.

    • JustGrowUp says:

      The non-straight (or non-hetero) community would be a more appropriate term.

    • Jack says:

      Huh? I thought LGBT was an inclusive acronym. I’d assume the issues each of these groups face are unique. And I doubt few if any see the stereotypical gay and lesbian descriptions you describe in that way anymore.

      I guess I’m not sure I understand your point.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        It’s an irrational initialism. It makes as much sense as saying that all single parents and all sex workers make up ‘the SPSW community’. Or that all clarinettists and all music critics make up the CMC community.

  • SVM says:

    [I tried to post this comment on the follow-up post, but it was “marked as spam”, so I am posting here instead]

    If this case instigates a régime for subjecting artists, sponsors, and external hires to some sort of “acceptability of moral/social/political views” screening, then the bigots will have won. History has shown repeatedly that great art can arise from people and institutions espousing repugnant, offensive, and even murderous ideologies.

    Personally, I find Gazeta Polska Community of America objectionable on the grounds that it supports NATO, an organisation that has continually undermined world peace, violated international law, and impoverished member states (through its insistence on bloated military spending).

    • common sense says:

      I agree with your point wholeheartedly. We can disagree on political matters but dialogue is as much important in politics as it is of critical importance in arts and culture. We should also try and learn about differences in sensibility to certain social issues which in this particular case are the source of whole commotion.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “NATO…impoverished member states (through its insistence on bloated military spending)”

      This comment is actually bizarre. Although the US regularly whinges that the other members don’t spend enough on military spending, so far the spending the other members make (with one-or-two exceptions) is rather low by international standards.

  • Greg says:

    “The sad aspect of all this is that music, more than any other art form, has the extraordinary ability to bring people together, to rise above prejudice, welcoming everyone, regardless of our differences, to its enchanting harmonies.”

    And yet you decided to pull out rather than allow the music to potentially mend rifts and heal wounds. The pandering PC Police State at work again.

  • Allen says:

    should have played the concert, taken their money, and played encores by Tchaikovsky! 😀