POLITICS

Toronto church says it won't allow Ukrainian-born pianist to perform

04/09/2015 08:23 EDT | Updated 06/09/2015 06:59 EDT
TORONTO - A Ukrainian-born pianist barred from performing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra who planned to perform at a church Friday night won't be allowed to play there.

Valentina Lisitsa posted on Twitter Thursday that she would give a free concert at Lawrence Park Community Church in north Toronto.

However, church minister John Suk said they have "not rented the church sanctuary to her" and is checking to see another renter "squeezed her in" without telling them.

Suk stated in an email to The Canadian Press late Thursday that if the booking had slipped past church officials, it would be cancelled immediately.

"We have no interest in identifying ourselves with the attitudes that she has publicly expressed," he said. "Our values would never allow us to align ourselves with the sort of comments Ms. Lisitsa has allegedly made."

Suk said staff handle church rentals are they not a matter that he or the church leadership usually pay much attention to.

The TSO cancelled Lisitsa's performances Wednesday and Thursday night over what symphony president and CEO Jeff Melanson called "offensive" Twitter posts.

Lisitsa, an ethnic Russian born in Ukraine who now lives in the United States, said she had been accused by the orchestra of "inciting hatred" on Twitter because of her comments on the conflict in Ukraine.

The incident unleashed a firestorm of divisive online commentary, with many taking sides on Twitter and Facebook over whether Lisitsa should have been dropped from the Toronto orchestra.

Despite being at the centre of the online controversy, Lisitsa will perform with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in June as scheduled.