Monday, October 28, 2013

Sweet Honey in the Rock at Byham

For Immediate Release
Media Contacts:
Shaunda Miles, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Diana Roth, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust



Byham Theater
  Saturday, November 9, 2013, at 8:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh, PA:  The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents the soulful a capella ensemble, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK®, at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday, November 9, 2013, at 8:00 p.m. Ticket prices start at $25. For tickets and information, visit, call (412) 456-6666, or in person: Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue.  This event is part of the Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents series.

SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK’s current six members Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, Nitanju Casel, Shirley Saxton, and Ysaye Barnwell continue their deeply held commitment to create African music out of the rich textures of African American legacy and traditions and bring this music to communities across the U.S. and around the world.  Sweet Honey raises her voice in hope, love, justice, peace and resistance and invites her audiences to open their minds and hearts.

Now in its 40th year, the Grammy® Award nominated ensemble celebrates this landmark season with FORTY AND FIERCE! a theme that captures their fiery temperament and exemplifies that all things are possible.  Sweet Honey "is one of my favorite groups in the whole wide world." –First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sweet Honey In The Rock®. Photo Dwight Carter. Pictured left to right: Louise Robinson, Shirley Childress (ASL interpreter), Nitanju Bolade Casel, Carol Maillard, Aisha Kalil.

Challenge and change are the themes underlying the 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.

SWEET HONEY’s founder, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (who retired from the group in 2004), first became aware of the political power – the “rock” – of song while in jail in 1961 for her participation in a civil rights march in her Albany, Georgia, hometown. After her release, she became a member of the original Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers and a leader in the Sixties civil rights movement, traveling the country spreading its songs and message – “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Aisha Kahlil possesses a dynamic, innate power and range in jazz, blues, traditional, contemporary, and African vocal styles and techniques. Ms. Kahlil’s interest in music was evident at an early age. She was a member of local choirs in her native Buffalo, New York, and performed as a vocalist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in several productions including Porgy and Bess, Carmen Jones, and The Messiah. She also sang the role of Monica in a special WGBH production of Menotti’s The Medium, and performed at Carnegie Hall in Julius Eastman’s avant-garde composition The Thruway. She worked with the Studio Arena Theatre where she was awarded a full scholarship, and at the Buffalo Black Drama Workshop, where she toured in the production Willus Way is Not a Violent Man, directed by Ed Smith. During this time she became interested in the music of such jazz artists as John Coltrane, Leon Thomas, Betty Carter, Yma Sumac, and Pharaoh Sanders, to name a few.

Carol Maillard is a founding member of SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK.  Her powerful rendition of Motherless Childarranged for Sweet Honey, is featured in the motion picture, THE VISIT and the Dorothy Height documentary, We are Not Vanishing.  Carol was Conceptual Producer for the documentary film on PBS’ American Masters 2005 - SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK: RAISE YOUR VOICE!   Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson (Firelightmedia Films), the film chronicled Sweet Honey’s 30th Anniversary year (2003).

A graduate of Howard University with a BFA, Louise Robinson’s professional career began at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. Louise accepted Robert Hooks’ invitation to become a member of the new, D.C. Black Repertory Company Acting Ensemble. It was out of this theatre company that Louise, along with Carol Maillard, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Mie, formed the a cappella quartet, Sweet Honey In The Rock.

Louise's colorful career has taken her up many paths, including performances, both on and off-Broadway, and in film and studio recording. She has also worn the producer's hat as she, along with Maillard and Smokey Ronald Stevens, produced A Sho Nuff Variety Revue, a series of performances showcasing some of New York’s finest talent, including Adolph Casear, Sandra Reeves Phillips, and legendary tap dancers Gregory Hines, Avon Long, and Joe Attles.

Nitanju Casel became a member of Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1985, after four years of studying, performing, and cultural organizing in Dakar, Senegal. As a co-founder, with Marie Guinier, of Artistes Des Echanges Africaines, she worked in alliance with local artists, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Theatre Daniel Sorano, the University of Dakar, Air Afrique, Television and Radio Orts, the Schomberg Center for Research and Development, and the late Dr. Ewart Guinier of Harvard University. Nitanju is also the former assistant director of the Art of Black Dance & Music, and director of Young Afrique Dance Company, both in Massachusetts.

A native of Washington, D.C., Shirley Saxton is considered by many Deaf and hearing people as an exemplar for Sign interpreting music.  Passionate about her work, Shirley is a skilled professional Sign language interpreter who learned American Sign Language (ASL) from her Deaf parents.  In their honor she founded the Herbert and Thomasina Childress Scholarship Fund to assist other children of Deaf adults (CODA) to explore Sign interpreting as a work option.

Ysaye Barnwell was born in New York City and has lived in Washington, D.C., for over 40 years.  Her life experiences have taken her down three major paths.  She began in music at the age of 2½, studying violin for 15 years with her father and majoring in music in high school.  She sang in a choir while in junior high school and then in college.  In 1976, she founded the Jubilee Singers at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C.  It was, there in 1979, that Bernice Johnson Reagon witnessed her as a singer and a Sign Language interpreter and invited her to audition for Sweet Honey In The Rock.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh’s most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners. Founded in 1984, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District. The District is one of the country’s largest land masses “curated” by a single nonprofit arts organization. A major catalytic force in the city, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation and creativity.  Using the arts as an economic catalyst, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy and enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life. Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies and thousands of private citizens, the Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts.

Posted on behalf of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates.  Joyce Kane is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Administrative support company, providing virtual office support, personal and executive assistance, creative design services and light bookkeeping.  Cybertary works with businesses and busy individuals to help them work 'on' their business rather than 'in' their business.

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