Challenge and change are the themes underlying the 40-plus-year career of the revered female African-American a cappella ensemble, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK. In the course of creating its adventurous and diverse mixture of blues, African, jazz, gospel and R&B music, with excursions into symphonic and dance theater, 23 vocalists have passed through the group, formed as a quartet in 1973 at a workshop at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company in Washington. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, and Mie drew their name from the first song they learned, “Sweet Honey in the Rock,” based on a Biblical psalm. “Sweet Honey speaks of a land that is so rich when you break the rocks open, honey flows. And we thought it was something like us African-American women . . . strong like a rock, but inside [there’s] honey – sweet,” explains Robinson.
Since 1973, this remarkable all women, African- American group has been creating historical and stimulating topics expressed through song, dance and sign language. The ensemble has produced over 20 albums and has interchanged with many vocalists. However, embarking on a new chapter in their musical journey, Sweet Honey In The Rock now includes four core vocalists—Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard (both founding members) Nitanju Bolade Casel, and Aisha Kahlil—plus Shirley Childress (an American Sign Language Interpreter who has been performing live with the group since 1981). One of the early highlights of their 2016 performance season will be Sweet Honey in the Rock’s 34th appearance at Carnegie Hall which will include special guest appearances by highly-regarded violinist Regina Carter and trumpeter Terence Blanchard.