Musica: Catching up with Carol Maillard of Sweet Honey in the Rock

This week in the United states, we celebrated the birth of the Dr. Martin Luther King and watched President Barack Obama start his second term. So of course, legacy is the theme for our week as we celebrate both the past and the future. When it comes to music, part of the African American legacy is not only music such as Gospel, Jazz and Hip Hop but also our artists. Sweet Honey in the Rock is apart of the American fabric of musical greatness. For 29 years, Sweet Honey in the Rock has been a ground breaking a capella group that has wowed audiences all of the world. The group was founded by Bernice King in 1973, and though Ms. King retired from the group some time ago, Carol Maillard, an original member stayed with the group and still performs with Sweet Honey in the Rock today. Sugarcane had a chance to speak with her about the group’s South Florida performance and their upcoming album release.

Sweet Honey in the Rock has graced the world stage with some of the best representations of the African American experience. What has helped you stay so strong for so long? I think just the whole notion of being able to just keep moving forward together, and being able to take each challenge as it comes. We do our best to adjust and plan ahead about things we want to do and things we want to happen….. nothing is taken for granted or left up to chance. We just do our very best.

What was it like working with the Alvin Ailey dance Company on an original piece? It was marvelous! It was so beautiful because it was great to be enfolded into the Alvin Ailey Company because they are phenomenal. Not just as dancers, but the organization is phenomenal.The people who work for them are kind and conscientious and deeply professional . That was a wonderful thing to be around. It took me back to my theatrical upbringing, my theatrical experiences. I felt very much at home, being on the road with them, being backstage…it felt really good.It felt good being a part of that. Working on the piece, creating the piece, working with Hope Boykin, who was the choreographer, we all conceptualized the story, time we spent around Judith Jaimeson-it was marvelous. Everyone who works there is superb.

Can you take us back to the day you found out the group was performing for our first African American President? We actually performed not for the President, it was actually for three groups that came from local middle schools from the D.C. area, about 180 kids and their teachers and parents and it was the First Lady who invited us…. it was special to see how the staff and people that had been there a long time, how the felt pride and the glow in everybody’s eyes.You could taste it, you could feel it- the sense of pride and accomplishment that everybody felt-including us.

What can we expect from your performance in South Florida? The Sweet Honey repertoire, I won’t say is vast but there’s A LOT OF MUSIC ! There are songs we love to do and songs that our audiences love to hear and then are songs that we’ve been doing in our show called Tribute. Tribute is our Jazz show, that we do with a Jazz trio ; but we have some a capella pieces that we do in that show that we also incorporate into our regular show. I’m sure there will be some songs that people either remember hearing but they haven’t just clicked on them or they never heard them or there will be songs that they just love and will be so happy that we performed them. We try to keep the material moving. The show that I’m speaking about Tribute, is going to be released as a double CD at the end of February. Sweet Honey in the Rock: Live at Lincoln Center

Here is a performance by the group:

Sweet Honey in the Rock will be performing at the Miramar Cultural Center on January 25 ( Join Sugarcane at the performance) and at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center on January 26

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