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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 19, 2007

Sweet Honey in the Rock returns to UI Hancher Auditorium Dec. 8

Grammy Award-winning Sweet Honey in the Rock -- seven African-American women committed to pursuing social justice through the power of music -- will return to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.

Their songs, drawing from spirituals, hymns, gospel, jazz, blues, rap, reggae and African chant, are rendered in American Sign Language by group member Shirley Childress Saxton.

Sweet Honey in the Rock was enthusiastically received in 1997 and 2002 Hancher concerts. Their return to the UI comes on the heels of their latest CD, "Experience . . . 101."

The repertoire of Sweet Honey in the Rock, founded in 1973 by Bernice Johnson Reagon at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company, has its roots in the sacred music of the black church and all its various offshoots.

But Sweet Honey in the Rock is not merely a singing group. It is a traveling and community-based cultural institution, dedicated to the preservation and celebration of African-American culture. The group took its name from the biblical parable telling of a land so rich that when rocks were cracked open, honey flowed out.

Combining their powerful voices with hand-held and foot percussion, movement and narrative, the women of Sweet Honey in the Rock speak out against oppression and exploitation of all kinds, becoming artistic advocates for justice and humanity.

Joann Dean wrote in Brother and Sister Magazine, "Sweet Honey is a testimony to a living body that not only sings about the issues of the day but interprets them in a visual and visceral verse."

Horace Clarence Boyer wrote for PBS' "American Masters," "Absent from the group's songs are the moon and June rhymes, the pretty melodies with senseless words and any sign of the slightest fear of topical subjects. In fact, Sweet Honey is known as the group that will go where no other singers will go.

"The sound is that of sisters sitting around the fireplace singing songs of social commentary, a female choir in rehearsal, a congregation of Wednesday evening Prayer Services singers, or a village that has come together to sing through happiness, trials or death. Even as the melodies, harmonies and rhythms soar, one is immediately struck by the message of the songs, for the message is what Sweet Honey is all about.

"Sweet Honey has become the surrogate conscience of the United States in that her songs will not let us rest while there is still work to be done . . . delivered without hostility or rancor but with the care of a friend and concerned loved one."

The group received the 1996 National Black Arts Festival Award for Distinguished Achievement. In addition to the 1989 Grammy Award, they have twice won the top awards of the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America, the Best Women's Album and Best Gospel Album awards from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors, and three national awards for recordings of children's music.

Sweet Honey in the Rock is well known to audiences throughout the world through their extensive international tours and more than 20 recordings. Reagon chronicled their history in "We Who Believe in Freedom -- Sweet Honey In The Rock Still On The Journey."

When Reagon retired as lead singer after 30 years she wrote, "We would not have been able to make this journey thus far without you who join us as audience community within the many spaces where we sing. It has been your tenacious work that has helped to create what has become an expanding international audience increasing the safety zone for so many who deserve honor, sonic and visual space in this universe."

Hear about Sweet Honey in the Rock on NPR's Talk of the Nation at

The Dec. 8 Hancher concert is supported by Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets are $38/35/30; UI student $34.20/15; senior citizen $34.20/31.50/27; youth $26.60/24.50/21.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),

PHOTOS are available at