Subscribe -- FREE!
Shel Horowitz's monthly Clean and Green Newsletter
Receive these exciting bonuses: Seven Tips to Gain Marketing Traction as a Green Guerrilla plus Seven Weeks to a Greener Business
( Privacy Policy )

Sweet Honey's Journey Still Evolving

Sweet Honey in the Rock concert review.

Some singing groups might get a little tired after 22 years--but not Sweet Honey in the Rock. This group of five African-American women singers and one sign-language interpreter is just hitting its stride. It's easy to imagine they wouldn't be tired even after another 22 years.

Though only one of the founding members, Bernice Johnson Reagon, is still with the group, several of its members have been involved for fifteen years or more--and it's clear on stage that these strong voices have become not just an ensemble but a family.

It had been several years since I'd seen the group, and in their tour kick-off in Northampton, Massachusetts October 5, 1996, I was amazed and deighed at how much they've evolved.

Always strong on harmonies and vocal arrangements--the group sings a cappella except for some shekeres and other African light percussion--Sweet Honey has evolved a singing style that combines influnces as diverse as tribal Africa, black American gospel, contemporary classical music, ancient religious chant, and even, at times, hints of New Age musicians such as Andreas Vollenweider.

The singing is deeper and more layered than it used to be, and more of their material has a clearly defined lead singer (with the others filling in behind to create a wall of sound--though not at all in the Phil Spector sense). They've moved away from the style they developed in the 70s and 80s that ephasized the group as a whole rather than its individual voices--and are drawing from a wider range of tradition. Where once their sund was firmly based in the black church, now it includes African world beat (which dominates), blues, rap, and more.

There's also more audience participation. Early in the first set, for instance, bass singer Ysae Barnwell sprang a multi-part round from West Africa on the crowd--dividing us up into about ten sections on the fly. Once she stopped to explain it and try again, the result was stunningly beautiful.

Barnwell, incidentally has an incredible range: probably over two octaves.

One striking change was easy to see. In the past, the members of Sweet Honey generally stayed seated for their entire performance. At this concert, they swayed, danced, incorporated pantomime and theatrical interplay--and it really helped to keep the audience involved and sometimes also on our feet. The chairs were still there, but most of the time at least one of them, and sometimes all, would be empty.

Northampton is known as a music-lovers' town, and this concert certainly helped that reputation. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic, shouting praises, dancing and singing, and clapping to the music, and shaking the building with applause and footstomping. Even after more than two hours of music, the crowd wouldn't let them go--demanding a second encore. And the performers fed on this enthusiasm to perform a truly memorable show.

For more arts coverage, go to the home page of Global Arts Review

Share this article/site with a Friend

Bookmark Us

Many of the 1,000+ articles on Frugal Fun and Frugal Marketing have been gathered into magazines. If you'd like to read more great content on these topics, please click on the name of the magazine you'd like to visit.

Ethics Articles - Down to Business Magazine - Frugal & Fashionable Living Magazine
Global Travel Review - Global Arts Review - Peace & Politics Magazine
Frugal Marketing Tips - Frugal Fun Tips - Positive Power of Principled Profit

Clean and Green Marketing

Our Privacy Policy

Disclosures of Material Connections:
  • Some of the links on our site and items in our newsletters are sponsored ads or affiliate links. This financial support allows us to bring you the consistent high quality of information and constant flow of new content. Please thank our advertisers if you do business with them.
  • As is the case for most professional reviewers, many of the books I review on this site have been provided by the publisher or author, at no cost to me. I've also reviewed books that I bought, because they were worthy of your time. And I've also received dozens of review copies at no charge that do not get reviewed, either because they are not worthy or because they don't meet the subject criteria for this column, or simply because I haven't gotten around to them yet, since I only review one book per month. I have far more books in my office than I will ever read, and the receipt of a free book does not affect my review.

Site copyright © 1996-2011 by Shel Horowitz