Founded by Bernice Johnson Reagon in 1973 (with Mie, Carol Maillard and Louise Robinson) 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 thinkabout who we are and how we treat each other, our fellow creatures whoshare this planet, and of course, the planet itself.
Sweet Honey’s 20th CD release, Experience…101 was a 2008 Grammy® Award nominee. The excitement continued as Sweet Honey was asked to compose new material in celebration of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s 50th anniversary. Together, these two artistic treasures of the African American experience performed this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration throughout the United States. The music for the collaboration was released on a CD entitled GO IN GRACE.
In 2009 Sweet Honey was honored to accept an invitation from President and Mrs. Barack Obama to give a concert at the White House on Feb. 18, 2009.
2010 saw the release of a single CD and video in response to Arizona Law SB-1070, and the creation of a Tribute Concert – REMEMBERING NINA, ODETTA AND MIRIAM MAKEBA.
The 2011-2012 season finds Sweet Honey celebrating her 38th birthday, and what a year it will be! Washington residents will be treated to a performance of the Tribute Concert on October 22, 2011 and in April 2012, the premiere of a new work – AFFIRMATIONS – in performance with the National Symphony.
Sweet Honey In The Rock members are Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, and Shirley Childress Saxton (Sign Language Interpreter).