PROM 45: “MISSISSIPI GODDAM” A HOMAGE TO NINA SIMONE | BBC Proms 2019

Conductor Jules Buckley led the Metropole Orkest in a Prom of pure gold, with Nina Simone’s back catalogue brought to life in new, orchestral reimaginings by a slew of orchestrators, in addition to the virtuosic vocal stylings of Lisa Fischer and Ledisi.

One of the highlights of the Prom was the orchestral opening, functioning as a kind of overture, blending Simone’s “African Mailman” and “Sinnerman”. Jochen Neuffer’s sparkling orchestration changes feel every few bars, offering a full orchestral showcase. Pianist Hans Vrooman got the chance to shine throughout the programme, not least in Simone’s instantly recognisable accompaniment to “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, and a lengthy improvised introduction to “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”.

Richard Rodgers’ “Little Girl Blue”, orchestrated by Evan Jolly, was a surprise highlight of the entire programme. With hymnal brass playing out “Good King Wenceslas”, delicate celeste, and waves of strings in unexpected harmony, topped with Ledisi’s astounding voice and theatrical delivery, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Lisa Fischer’s vocal prowess — she plays her own voice just like an instrument — came to a head in “Dido’s Lament”, part orchestrated by Chris Walden, a bold choice since Simone never covered the infamous Purcell aria. By the finale, the entire crowd (including Nina Simone’s granddaughter) was in an absolute frenzy, and the inevitable encore of “Feeling Good” was presented as a powerhouse vocal battle between the two unstoppable lead singers. Completely hallucinatory.

1,350 £6 Promming tickets are available on the day for every performance.

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