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Sweet Honey In The Rock History

Sweet Honey In The Rock

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Based in: Washington, United States.

Members: Nitanju Bolade Casel, Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard, Aisha Kahlil
Former Members: Ysaye Barnwell, Bernice Johnson Reagon


Founded by Bernice Johnson Reagon in 1973 at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company, Sweet Honey In The Rock, internationally renowned a cappella ensemble, has been a vital and innovative presence in the music culture of Washington, D.C., and in communities of conscience around the world.

From Psalm 81:16 comes the promise to a people of being fed by honey out of the rock. Honey - an ancient substance, sweet and nurturing. Rock - an elemental strength, enduring the winds of time. The metaphor of sweet honey in the rock captures completely these African American women whose repertoire is steeped in the sacred music of the Black church, the clarion calls of the civil rights movement, and songs of the struggle for justice everywhere.

Rooted in a deeply held commitment to create music out of the rich textures of African American legacy and traditions, Sweet Honey In The Rock possesses a stunning vocal prowess that captures the complex sounds of Blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, Hip Hop, ancient lullabies, and jazz improvisation. Sweet Honey's collective voice, occasionally accompanied by hand percussion instruments, produces a sound filled with soulful harmonies and intricate rhythms.

In the best and in the hardest of times, Sweet Honey In The Rock has come in song to communities across the U.S., and around the world raising her voice in hope, love, justice, peace, and resistance. Sweet Honey invites her audiences to open their minds and hearts and think about who we are and how we treat each other, our fellow creatures who share this planet, and of course, the planet itself.

Sweet Honey In The Rock has performed in many of the world's most prestigious venues on almost every continent for royal command concerts and festivals. In 2015 alone, they embarked on four U.S. Embassy tours with performances and community outreach in, Ethiopia, Peru, Jamaica and Swaziland (and also toured Belize in 2014). In Swaziland, they were one of the headliners of the internationally acclaimed 9th Annual Mountain Bushfire Music Festival (which attracted 20,000 people), and were featured at the 11th Annual Festival of Voices in Hobart, Tasmania, as part of a tour that also included Launceston, and Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. Their February 2016 appearance at New York's historic Carnegie Hall (with noted guest artists trumpeter and bandleader Terence Blanchard and violinist Regina Carter) holds the distinction of being their 32nd occasion to perform there.

Recent milestones and accomplishments include being commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company to compose a score for its 50th anniversary 2008 program, "Go In Grace." In 2012, they debuted their first orchestral collaboration, writing original lyrics for composer William Banfield's, "Symphony 10: Affirmations for a New World", a thirty minute work that was co-commissioned and presented by the National Symphony Orchestra (Christoph Eschenbach, Music Director), and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC; the Minnesota Orchestra, (Osmo Vanska, Music Director) at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis; and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Millennium Park with the Sphinx Orchestra (conducted by Mark Russell Smith) in Chicago.

The group also had the honor of performing at the National Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. In acknowledgement of their efforts, Sweet Honey In The Rock was recently presented a distinguished award by the Search For Common Ground Organization and the Keeper of the Flame award by the National Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at its 100th anniversary celebration. Also, not surprisingly, they are a favorite group of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, having performed by request at the White House.

Sweet Honey In The Rock, which has been the subject of two PBS television specials, (including American Masters), is a beloved performance ensemble that, in its 40 plus year history, has maintained a resilient spirit and found a way to successfully fuse the talents of the 24 women that have graced the Sweet Honey In The Rock stage into their patented sound without ever skipping a beat. Ever evolving, the soul survivors once even expanded to six vocalists before settling back to four, all in the name of retaining its adventurous spirit, keeping up with the times and reaching greater numbers of like-minded spirits. Last year they released the holiday single and video, "Silent Night" in support of their annual Sweet Honey In The Rock, "Celebrate the Holydays" program of spiritual music from around the globe.
Group Videos