Through a mixture of blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, hip hop, ancient lullabies, and jazz improvisation, Sweet Honey in the Rock continues a four-decade tradition of political and social activism. Founded in Washington, D.C. in 1973, the group was the brainchild of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, a leader in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
“The University Performance Series is pleased to be able to offer programming that includes Sweet Honey in the Rock,” said Joe Scartelli, dean of Radford’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA).
The name Sweet Honey in the Rock was derived from a song the original four members sang during a vocal workshop that Reagon taught at the Washington, D.C. Black Repertory Company. The song is based on Psalm 81:6 and describes a land so fertile that honey flowed out of a rock. Reagon felt that collective voices sounded like the description in the song.
Though Reagon retired in 2004, the all-female a cappella group has continued performing and includes six members, including an American Sign Language interpreter Shirley Childress, who began signing for the group in 1981.
“This truly exceptional group of performers brings a plethora of diversity to our campus in that it includes a strong mix of music and advocacy in civil rights and the deaf community,” Scartelli said.
In 2012, Sweet Honey in the Rock, in partnership with Barry Eastman, won a Gold Songwriter Award from the 27th Mid-Atlantic Song Contest for “Are We a Nation.” Included on “Bordersongs,” an all-star musical compilation, it has helped raise funds and awareness for the No More Deaths organization, which provides water and humanitarian aid along the Arizona/Mexico border.
Sweet Honey in the Rock is the season opener for the University Performance Series. Each year, CVPA selects world-class professional individuals or companies to perform for the campus and surrounding communities as part of the performance series. RU considers hundreds of potential events each year in every category of the performing arts, Scartelli said.
The performance series is dedicated to bringing arts events of the highest caliber to the New River Valley. The committee has the obligation and privilege of providing cultural and artistic events that would be otherwise unavailable in the area, said Scartelli.
“All of our events are produced with both the campus community and our regional community of western Virginia and beyond in mind,” he said. “Nothing we do in the arts is complete without sharing it with an audience.”
The concert will be held Thursday, Sept. 5 at the Bondurant Auditorium at Preston Hall. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children and free with an RU identification card. Beginning Aug. 22, they can be purchased at the Hurlburt Student Center information desk or by calling (540) 831-5420. The may be also ordered online at radfordactivities.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event_listings.asp.
For more information about Radford University, visit radford.edu.