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Acapella gig brings Nina Simone into cathedral

PACKED HOUSE: The acapella group Black Voices sang Nina Simone classics at Lichfield Cathedral (Photo credit: Redlock Photography)

THE HISTORIC and picturesque Lichfield Cathedral isn’t a place you would naturally associate with a journey through black history, but the two came together seamlessly when Black Voices played “Celebrating Nina” to a packed house in the south Staffordshire city.

Making its first appearance in the venue since 2006, the enduring female acapella group played tribute to the late Nina Simone, ‘the High Priestess of Soul’, who was aptly described by vocalist Carol Pemberton as “one of the most extraordinary artists of the 20th century”.

The show dedicated each set to a particular type of music from Nina’s rich back catalogue.
Playing homage to her spiritual side, the group invited the crowd to “go to church with us”, eliciting the call and response that is a less familiar feature within an Anglican church, as Black Voices ran through a repertoire of Nina’s gospel standards, including Take Me to the Water, on which the original quintet were joined by four more vocalists, including Joel Noel and Francis Mott, and musical accompaniment.

Sinnerman and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands rounded off the set. The rest of the show was categorised within Nina’s “protest, love songs and ‘out of love’ songs,'' including Feeling Good, and a rendition of Bob & Marcia’s reggae hit To Be Young, Gifted and Black – which was in fact a cover of Nina’s original 1965 anthem.

The second half of the show kicked off with a shortened acapella version of Nina’s most famous track, 1957’s My Baby Just Cares For Me, which revisited the top 10 singles charts in the UK and stateside 30 years after its first release.


The concert also gave the virtuoso musicians – including guitarist John Brown, bassist Reed Bass and keyboardist David Austin Gray – opportunity to demonstrate their skills in several instrumental tracks. It was an appropriately brilliant musical tribute to an iconic artist.

“Celebrating Nina” was the third consecutive night that the Lichfield Festival dedicated to black music; following on from Cleveland Watkiss MBE’s Nat King Cole Celebration and Great Jamaican Songbook.

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