Black Theatre Live


Strange Fruit: A Tribute to Billie Holiday

Welcome back to the 40s and 50s with a night to remember with classic songs that tell a story of yesteryear but are still contemporary favourites. So if you fancy putting on your best cocktail dress and dinner suit come and join us as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday. We have put together a fabulous show featuring the best jazz, blues, and contemporary voices in the East Midlands keeping the voice, songs and lyrics sung by Billie Holiday alive.

Under the musical direction of Neil Hunter we have a fabulous line up of singers and musicians for the evening such as Carol Leeming renowned as a hugely versatile artist, with a very powerful and distinct vocal style. Innately skilled, innovative performer of song, spoken word, jazz vocalese and scat, Mellow Baku, established jazz vocalist Dee Joseph and emerging talents Lydia Unsudimi and Ili Sanchea, alongside musical accompaniment from saxophonist Marcus Joseph and double bass player Mark Trounson.

Strange Fruit is an exciting new production, which pays tribute to one of the greatest jazz voices of all time; Billie Holiday. The production was originally commissioned by Serendipity for the launch of Black History Month Leicester 2015, as part of celebrations to mark the centenary year of Billie Holiday’s birth.

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan, she adopted the professional name - Billie Holiday - from screen star Billie Dove, and her father’s last name. After a difficult early life, Holiday became an active participant in Harlem’s vibrant jazz scene, making her first record aged 18, and later became one of the first Black women to work with a white orchestra. But it was Billie Holiday’s introduction to the poem Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol, which marked a watershed moment in both her career and the public consciousness. An outspoken and emotional piece protesting the lynching of Black Americans, Billie Holiday’s heart-wrenching interpretation of Strange Fruit became one of her signature songs. Billie Holiday died in 1959, aged just 44 but her vivacity and unique voice that continue to influence jazz and blues music today and inspire.

The Strange Fruit programme is made up of unique interpretations of beloved jazz standards, made famous by Holiday. Interweaving spoken word, and with musical influences ranging from reggae and swing to hip hop and jazz funk, the line-up takes on popular classics such as ‘God Bless the Child’ to ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ and includes the haunting original number ‘Beauty, Blues and Blood’, with the title song ‘Strange Fruit’ interleaved. Not just a tribute, Strange Fruit reawakens the songs, lyrics and voice of Billie Holiday.