October 2011

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play in the spotlight And All That Ladies of Song… and Conscience Sweet Honey in the Rock brings stunning sounds to town By Michael and Jean Muckian Some of autumn's last songbirds will per- form with both heart and soul, creating music with a conscience at a time many in our country think we need it most. Case in point: Sweet Honey in the Rock. This female African-American sextet sets the gold standard for a cappella music sung from the heart, and they will perform Oct. 7 at the Wisconsin Union Theater, demon- strating an unparalleled vocal prowess that blends the sounds of the blues, spiritu- als, gospel, roots, reggae, jazz and African chants into rich harmonies and intricate rhythms. The Grammy Award-winning group, based out of Washington, D.C., has been delivering soulful melodies and lyrics with significant social meaning since its in- ception in 1973. Ensemble members have changed many times in the past 38 years, and the current lineup includes Ysaye Ma- ria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson and Shirley Childress Saxton, who will also present the songs in American Sign Lan- guage during the performance. The name Sweet Honey in the Rock comes from the biblical Psalm 81:16, which prom- ises the people will be fed by honey from a rock. Honey, an ancient food both sweet and nurturing, and the rock, a symbol of strength and stability, perfectly encom- 68 BRAVA Magazine October 2011 passes the group's delivery and mission. Formed in the wake of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the group has always embraced a social mission in its music. This past June the ensemble recorded "Are We a Nation?" with rap artist Yonas to protest Arizona's anti-immigration laws. The ensemble also has performed benefit concerts over the years, including this past June in support of victims of the disaster in Japan. The singers see it not only as their responsibility to others around the world, but also to themselves. "I have always believed art is the con- science of the human soul and that artists have the responsibility not only to show life as it is but to show life as it should be," fellow singer Harry Belafonte once said. "Sweet Honey in the Rock has withstood the onslaught. She has been unprovoked by the 30 pieces of silver. Her songs lead us to the well of truth that nourishes the will and courage to stand strong. She is the keeper of the flame." Visit Michael and Jean Muckian have covered the local food and arts scenes for over 25 and 15 years, respectively. Find their blog, Culturosity, at Other Jazz Stir your soul with a healthy helping of jazz this month Ireland's star Rockabilly revival fans will crowd the Majestic Theatre Oct. 4 for Imelda May. Dublin born, but with musical roots that reach into America's deep south, May's fusion of blues, surf guitar and retro- rockabilly bass thump give her a sound few vocalists today can match. Visit Local flavor Madison's resident queen of jazz Gerri DiMaggio continues her run of per- formances around town, including at the Edgewater Hotel's "Cove Lounge." Coupled with a great atmosphere, hear- ing DiMaggio is always a treat. Visit International flair Jazz guitarist and vocalist Madeleine Peyroux will take the Wisconsin Union Theater stage Oct. 12 with her own brand of soulful swing. Born in Georgia and raised in Paris, Peyroux has been compared to a young Billie Holiday. She was a hit on the same stage in 2007 and no doubt fans are looking forward to her return. Visit Down home sound On Oct. 16, the Madison Jazz Society hosts the Chicago Salty Dogs, a group who plays music in the tradition of New Orleans and Chicago jazz. Special guest on piano will be James Dapogny, who some may remember from appear- ances on the famed "A Prairie Home Companion." Visit Photo by Dwight Carter

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