Sweet Honey in the Rock

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Over the course of my life (my short 20 years) I've been lucky enough to be able to attend many different concerts spanning over tons of different genres. I love all kinds of music and will listen to anything once. I always enjoy the shows that I go to, but very rarely do I attend a show, and then leave knowing that my life has changed. This happened when I went to the benefit concert, Hope Rising, for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. After I saw Angelique Kidjo, and The African Grandmothers sing, as well as listened to Harry Belafonte (one of my all-time heroes) speak in-person, my desire to go to Africa spiked and I was determined to go. I am still working on it, but I know when the time is right, it will happen for me.

The other night I attended my first "Sweet Honey in the Rock" show at my favourite hall in Toronto, Koerner Hall. I had heard of these ladies before, but had never attended a show. I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything like this in my life. Not only do these women have the most incredible voices, but the stories that they tell with the music that they perform for you, is unlike anything else I've heard before. All the different levels of emotion were experienced that evening. I cried more than I had cried in a long time when they performed my favourite Marley song ever, "Redemption Song". I laughed when they would exchange banter within the group and with the audience. Not for one moment during this show, did they not have my attention.

The most memorable moment for me in the show was when they performed a song entitled "The Ballad of Harry T. Moore". I knew who he was, but I did not know his full story. For those who don't know, he was one of the first founders of the Florida district NAACP in the early 1930's. He was shot and killed on Christmas Day in 1951. Langston Hughes wrote words to this music that was written, and the song became what it is today. I did not know this story and at the concert, they shared the story with us before they sang the song. I'm positive that I did not blink or breathe the entire time they were singing. It was devastatingly beautiful.

If you have not heard of Sweet Honey, please visit their website, buy their music, and visit them live when they are performing near you. After the show, I had a brief encounter with Shirley Saxton and I was able to tell her how much I enjoyed the show and that it really was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. I really wanted to stay and meet the rest of the ladies - shake their hands and express my gratitude for what they had given me, but I was not able to. Ms. Saxton gave me a hug and thanked me for coming and sharing my appreciation with her. She told me to visit the website and write to them, so I will. One day, I hope to see them again and meet them in person. In particular, Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, and thank them for the gift they are giving us. 

"Without music life would be a mistake." 
   --Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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