Sunday, July 21

New show Chisholm for President! celebrates the life of a civil rights legend

New soul/funk musical Chisholm for President! tells the inspiring story of the first Black woman to be elected to Congress and to run for the nomination of the President of the United States.

Through live music and performance, it recalls the life of Shirley Chisholm who struggled against the political machine and made her trailblazing run for the Democratic US presidential nomination in 1972.  

Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazer as the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, before making history as the first African American to make a serious bid for the Presidency of the United States of America in 1972.  

She was known for her advocacy on behalf of women and minorities, standing with the Gay community, advocating for environmental protection before it was trendy, fighting against child poverty and opposed her nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  

Chisholm served in the United States House of Representatives for seven terms, from 1968-1983 and passed away in 2005. Kamala Harris wore purple in her honour when accepting the vice-presidential nomination in 2021.

Audiences can expect a show full of songs influenced by the soul, funk and jazz of the late 60s/early 70s. The concert features singers and actors performing alongside a full live band, including musicians from the UK Soul and Funk scene whose credits include Jamiroquai, Amy Winehouse, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Omar, Post-Modern Jukebox and Mark Ronson.

Chisholm for President!’s music and lyrics have been written by Leeds based writer and composer Testament. His work includes collaborations with Grammy winner Corinne Bailey Rae, Mercury Nominee Soweto Kinch and US jazz legend Joe Lovano, as well as being the writer of acclaimed plays Black Men Walking and Orpheus in the Record Shop.

The book comes from award winning playwright Zodwa Nyoni whose theatre work includes Darkest Part of The Night and Boi Boi is Dead, and her TV credits include Netflix short film The Ancestors.  

The cast will feature The Voice semi-finalist Rachel Modest, Ryan David Harston, Dermot Daly, Lladel Bryant, Grant Anthony, Basement Jaxx’s Milly Blue and Justina Aina.

Leeds Studios’ artistic director Alex Chisholm, who founded the Bradford Opera Festival, will direct the concerts that aim to secure support to turn Shirley Chisholm’s story into a full-length musical and continue to spread her message of hope and optimism to all.

“This is one of the most joyful shows I’ve ever worked on,” says Testament. “Musically I wanted the sound and orchestration to be as authentic to the era as possible, like you are listening to a record live from 1968! The workshop sharings have left people dancing in the aisles.”

Chisholm for President! will be performed at Slung Low’s The Warehouse in Leeds on Friday 12th April at 7.30pm and on Saturday 13th April at 7.45pm in the Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre.

For tickets for both venues visit www.leedsstudio.org/2024/02/13/chisholm-for-president-in-leeds-and-london/  

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