The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Tribute to Nina Simone featuring the debut of Ledisi Sings Nina at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.
As part of her tribute to the legendary Nina Simone, Ledisi performs her 10th album “Ledisi Sings Nina” in debut with none other than The Philadelphia Orchestra on July 22.
During an exclusive pre-concert interview, Ledisi expressed excitement at the prospect of returning to Philly in a role that would bring her and the artist she is fully channeling together.
“I think in a way. I’m speaking for her but also myself at the same time and in my voice, I’m showing that side that Nina would show [because] she was more than one way in her music… She was all of it,” Ledisi noted.
While Simone spent most of her life in New York, Europe and Liberia, and eventually self-exiled in France until her 2003 death, it was a quick but pivotal moment in Philadelphia that led her down the path to stardom. After studying at Juilliard, Nina Simone was rejected by Curtis for racial bias, she believed. Simone then began playing piano in an Atlantic City nightclub, where she was told she needed to sing, something she’d never considered doing, to make a living.
In addition to dozens of albums ranging from jazz to folk to R&B to gospel, Nina Simone played a key role in the civil rights movement through her music. Her sharp commentary on racial violence in the South, like “Mississippi Goddam,” and songs like “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black”, are just a few examples.
The music of Ledisi Sings Nina is the culmination of an impressive year that has included a GRAMMY for Best Traditional R&B Performance, the singer’s first PBS TV special, Ledisi Live: A Tribute to Nina Simone, a role on HBO’s Between the World and Me, and a second book called, “Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk: How to Embrace Your Journey”.
It is certain that the powerful voice of Ledisi, the artistry of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the message of Simone’s music will speak to a generation facing the same harsh challenges as those of the 1960s.
“We talk about her activism more than the human part of her, which is what I hope to display: that longing to be received in a full way. [W]e didn’t see the undercurrent of this one Black woman longing to be accepted to be free and to be full. And that is the part I’m hoping I keep showing: there underneath all that power is this Black woman just wanting you to receive her full self. And that’s kind of my line, too… Please accept all of me, the full Ledisi, the full Nina. She wasn’t just a powerful woman or political woman or an activist. Nina was a woman, a Black woman!”
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Tribute to Nina Simone featuring the debut of Ledisi Sings Nina takes place on July 22 at 8:00 PM, Friday evening, at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are on sale now via MannCenter.org, Ticketmaster.com, 800.982.2787, and the Mann Box Office.