by Eric Sutter
Hello love! Joy was in the hearts of all at Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre during a strong tower of faith performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Their music is rooted in the rich textures of African American legacy and traditions. They possess a stunning vocal prowess that captured the complex sounds of blues, spirtuals, gospel, rap, reggae, African chants, hip hop, ancient lullabies and jazz improvisation. Their collective voices were Accompanied by hand percussion instruments, the collective voices of Sweet Honey became a sound of soulful harmonies and intricate rhythms.
In this 38th season, the group began on a high note with a song about God, "I Believe." Many of the songs that followed were spine tinglers that offered deep spiritual exhilaration from Christian and Hebrew traditions. "I Don't Want No Trouble at the River" was one of these with gospel fervor from the sacred. The earthy soul stirrer, "When I Die" started slowly and built dramatic musical tension to release in the form of a ring shout of pure estatic voice and dance by song's end. Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," with movement in mysterious ways, was an awesome interpretation. Depth of feeling was evident with "Jesus on the Mainline," a soul warmer gospel rave-up worthy of hand clapping and holy ghost two stepping. "Education is the Key" employed empowered messages with wood block percussion that engaged the audience.
Marvin Gaye's "Mercy, Mercy Me" was a quiver of the 70's ecological soul vibe. The five female singers shouted out for higher lessons that the listeners should learn by "Mother Nature." A haunting syncopated Central African rain forest chant transfixed the audience in the sacred, magical and mystical realm with four part in the round singing.
Incidentally, this program was hand signed by Shirley Childress Saxon, who was exceptional at interpreting the words of the songs to the deaf, and educating the hearing audience members that music is a universal language. Her dedication is a bright shining light to humanity. The girls closed with the spiritual healer, "Coming Home One Sweet Day." The encore was the quaking "Down The Road I'll Be Going."