The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are on sale for a February 24, 2017 performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Grammy winning a cappella troupe.
Presented in observance of Black History Month, the 8:00 p.m. concert represents the Grammy winning, all female a cappella group’s first visit to the recently renovated Pollak Theatre. The 700-seat flagship auditorium on the Monmouth campus has become one of the region’s leading venues for a cappella music; a performance space that nurtures the warmth and intimacy of the human voice, and fosters a special connection between artist and audience.
Founded in 1973 by singer and educator Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Sweet Honey in the Rock is the kind of “new” musical organization that drew its name from a biblical psalm — and that continues to draws its power from centuries of cultural history and technique, as well as a marriage of sound and vision that complements the pure vocal performances with elements of dance and American Sign Language.
Through the dazzlingly complex interplay of voices and intricate rhythms, a Sweet Honey set can span territory ranging from ancient African chants and lullabies, to gospel hymns and call-and-response spirituals, and on into country blues, scat-jazz improvs, reggae flavorings, and contemporary hip-hop styles.
Far from delivering a dry musical history lesson, the group reinvigorates the folkloric forms in a way that draws irresistible parallels between the music of a nation’s ancestors and our own millennial society. It’s a thread that can run from a traditional spiritual like “I’m On My Way to Freedom Land” and tributes to influential artists like Maya Angelou and Nina Simone, through to themes from classic Hollywood movies and ripped-from-the-headlines originals like “Second Line Blues,” a roll call of real-life violence victims from their 2016 album, the elclectically energized (and hypercurrently titled) “#LoveInEvolution.”
Even more than ten years after the retirement of founder Reagon, Sweet Honey in the Rock continues to evolve, over the course of a journey punctuated by nearly two dozen album releases and the individual contributions of numerous past and present members. The current lineup teams original members Carol Maillard and Louise Robinson with more recent additions (and contributing songwriters) Nitanju Bolade Casel and Aisha Kahlil — as well as Shirley Childress, the ASL interpreter who has been an integral part of the group’s live shows since 1981. Bass player Romeir Mendez adds acoustic and electric support to the foundation of the female voices, with the singers also contributing hand-percussion embellishments.
Above all else, a career-long commitment to social justice issues ensures that the musical missionary group’s recurring themes of civil rights, respect, freedom and spirituality are never out of style — and that the work of this proudly vocal organization is far from done here in our America of 2017.
Tickets are available through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts.