Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Last night I went to see Sweet Honey in the Rock. A whole group of my friends came to see them too.

Back in 1986, when I was first learning ASL, Roby and I used to drive to the beach on a weekly basis. One time, we drove to Cannon Beach (as usualy) and went shopping. This was back before Cannon Beach was as commercial as it is now - it was always popular with tourists, but it was a more artsy community.

As we were wandering, we went into Holland's Florist and there was a man there with a thick mustache and a twinkle in his eye. Roby bought some lobelia or something from him and stuck up a conversation (as he was wont to do). Eventually, Thomas (the flower shop guy) invited us to have dinner with him and his partner, John (whom we had not met). Of course, we went. As we were wrapping up dinner with Thomas and John, I noticed the beautiful music that was playing softly in the background. I asked Thomas who it was and he said, "Sweet Honey in the Rock, have you heard of them?" We said no and so Thomas played us a couple of songs. He told me that he had seen them in concert at Portland State University several times and that they usually came to Portland once a year. I was really enjoying them and the evening went on. Later, when one of them asked what I did, I told them that I was a student of American Sign Language and this brought us back to Sweet Honey. "Did you know they have an signer who travels with them? You should see them perform." This intrigued me because, at the time, I didn't really even know that interpreters DID that. I didn't know much about anything...

Years later, I had the opportunity to see Sweet Honey and after the show - I was with Judy Rose and she wanted to get her CD autographed- I met Shirley Childress Saxton. She asked me if there were any Deaf individuals at the show and I said no. She encouraged me to tell them to come. I knew she was right and at the same time, I didn't even know how to talk about a musical concert to my Deaf friends.

Again, a few years later...5 or 7 years later...I was talking to a friend of mine who is Deaf. I was trying to explain to him about Sweet Honey and telling him that he might really enjoy the interpreter with the show. He was somewhat resistant. I told him that I didn't know if there were any tickets left but that he should come to the Civic Auditorium and see. If there were tickets, I would buy him one. He showed up but the show was sold out. He was all prepared to leave when a woman came over to us, kind of out of nowhere and said, "Do you need an extra ticket? We had a friend who can't make it and I have an extra ticket if you want it." I couldn't believe it. I told the woman I would pay for it and she said, "No, my friend paid for it already but she can't come and told me to give it to someone who needs it." So, my friend came in, not knowing if he would be able to see the interpreter or not. As luck would have it, the free seat was on the side where the interpreter was and he fell in love. If I remember correctly, he said that Shirley wasn't interpreting music - she was telling him a story and he felt it to his core. He has seen every Sweet Honey concert since then, including last night.

Anyway, I loved the show. It is the perfect time to see them - an election coming, a war, recession on the way. Just listening to them made me weep. The music and the sense of peace and the thoughts they generated for me...It was really good.

I was sad that they didn't sing some of my favorites, but as I said last night, I'm kind of an old fart that way...I want to hear the old standbys. I guess I will just have to pull out my CDs and listen to it that way. They did sing, "When I Die", "Spiritual" and "We Who Believe in Freedom". All the other songs were newer. I enjoyed the show so much and their humor. It felt like a time long past in some ways.

And I saw Judy Rose there. She rocks.


  1. I was at this performance, too. After years of promising myself to see them, I was finally able to go. Tears came to my eyes the moment their voices rose and filled the theater. Home stereo systems are wonderful but live performance is magical.

    I bought an early cd and discovered, after some internet research, that the members have changed over time. Substitutes will also fill in for regular members on tour. Does anyone know who was singing that evening?
    I recognized Ysaye and thought I heard Aisha introduced.

  2. I think you can find the names of the performers at the Sweet Honey website. I picked the picture for the blog because it looked like all the women were the same as the performance.

    I'm so glad you were able to attend! They are so amazing live and so inspiring.



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