Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sep 9, 2016

Sweet Honey in the Rock
Credit Snagfilms

Muddy Bottom Blues

Program #78 (September 9 at 8:00PM)

Sweet Honey in the Rock is a dynamic, all-female a cappella group with a repertoire rooted in African choral, blues, gospel, and jazz.

The ensemble educates, entertains and empowers its audience and community through the dynamic vehicles of a cappella singing and American Sign Language interpretation for the Deaf and hearing impaired.

Sweet Honey’s audience and community comes from diverse backgrounds and cultures throughout the United States and around the world, and includes people of all ages, economic/education/social backgrounds, political persuasions, religious affiliations, sexual preferences and differing abilities.

Earning an international following since their inception in 1973, the group use only body and hand-held percussion to accompany their vocalizations, if using any accompaniment at all.

Formed in Washington, D.C. by Bernice Johnson Reagon, then vocal director of the D.C. Black Repertory Theater, the ensemble has changed membership over time, with over 20 women having contributed to a lineup usually numbering four to six.

Sweet Honey in the Rock perform arrangements of popular and traditional works but compose much of their own music, which often focuses on women's issues and topics of social injustice, while also addressing family, community, and personal development-minded themes, including children's music.

Their eponymous debut album was released in 1976 and was followed by 1978's B'lieve I'll Run On, 1981's Good News, 1983's We All…Every One of Us, 1985's The Other Side and Feel Something Drawing Me On, and the 1988 live album Breaths before they issued Live at Carnegie Hall later that year.

The group also appeared on the Grammy-winning compilation Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly in 1988 with their version of Lead Belly's "Grey Goose." "A celebration of the roots, history and future of African-American culture," All for Freedom arrived in 1989. They continued to perform live and release material throughout the 1990s, which saw In This Land, Still on the Journey, I Got the Shoes, Sacred Ground, and the compilation Selections 1976-1988.

The children's album Still the Same Me was released in 2000, as was their soundtrack with James Horner for the TV movie Freedom Song. In 2003, they issued The Women Gather and Alive in Australia, which was followed by another live album in 2004, Endings & Beginnings. Tribute: Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center appeared in 2013, a year in which they also performed at Nelson Mandela's national memorial service in Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral.

(story provided by Allmusic)