What a way to welcome the holiday season! Grammy-winning, all-women, African American a capella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock returned to the Weis Center (they performed in 1992) for a December 1 performance that had everyone “Celebrating the Holydays.”
Founded in 1973, and with a few member changes over its forty years, Sweet Honey in the Rock has a mission to educate, entertain, and empower through powerful a capella vocal dynamics and American Sign Language. The current lineup consists of vocalists Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil and Shirley Childress, an American Sign Language Interpreter who has performed with the group since 1981. Childress’ skill and presence is a unique additional element to Sweet Honey performances and extends the feeling of inclusivity between the group and its audience, a feeling that is also expressed in their songs.
Sweet Honey’s Weis Center performance clearly embodied their mission as the ladies brought a roomful of beautiful harmonies, touching personal stories, as well as a dose of sass. Anecdotes of family, prayer, and core values were shared amidst a collection of soothing, uplifting music. The ladies relied heavily on their vocal abilities but were also accompanied by ensemble member Romeir Mendez on upright acoustic bass and electric bass. Hand percussion instruments were also utilized by Sweet Honey throughout the performance. Between exquisite vocal techniques and such a variety of instruments, audiences were treated to quite the evening of musical talent.
Performance highlights included songs sung in tribute to singer Nina Simone, a sampling of Christmas classics, and some Sweet Honey original numbers featuring lyrics dripping with love and gratitude. Audiences were pulled out of more relaxing numbers when the group encouraged everyone to not just clap to the rhythm but sing back to the group.
After the holiday break, the Weis Center will welcome the new year and kick back into its 30th Anniversary season with Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic Saturday January, 20 at 2 p.m.
For more information about the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, go to Bucknell.edu/WeisCenter or search for the Weis Center on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
~Caroline Clancy, Class of 2018