Sweet Honey in the Rock is one of first lady Michelle Obama’s favorite groups.
“That was beautiful to hear,” said Carol Maillard, one of the founders of the a cappella ensemble.
“We went to the White House in February last year,” Maillard said. “That was really lovely. Surreal, really. I could not believe we were there. Michelle and her daughters saw us earlier in Chicago, so I can say we were on the campaign with her.”
The group met President Barack Obama when he was still a senator from Illinois.
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“He was very familiar with our music,” Maillard said. “His mother loved us, too. We are in their family library of music and have been for a while.”
Sweet Honey in the Rock’s tour will stop in Columbus on Friday. The ensemble will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the RiverCenter.
Sweet Honey in the Rock was formed in 1973 by Bernice Johnson Reagon, Louise Robinson and Maillard at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Co.
According to the group’s Web site, Sweet Honey in the Rock is an African-American a cappella group that sings about hope, love, justice, peace and resistance.
The ensemble’s music spans genres like blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, hip hop, ancient lullabies and jazz improvisation, the Web site states.
The name comes from Psalm 81:16: the promise that people will be fed honey from a rock.
There are five singers — Maillard, Robinson, Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel and Aisha Kahlil, plus a sign language interpreter, Shirley Childress Saxton.
Maillard’s Sweet tenure
The women take turns doing media interviews. Maillard took her turn last week from her home in New York City, where she was preparing for the tour.
She said that the group has two concerts on at least two weekends a month for 10 months out of the year.
Maillard was first with the group from 1973 to 1977. She then became a part-time member from 1978 to 1991. Whenever the group needed a singer, she was available. She returned to the group full time in 1992.
So why did she go back?
“One has to work,” she simply said.
She took her son, Jordan Maillard Ware, on tour when he was young. When he was age 7 to 15 he traveled with his mom.
“I took Jordan with me as much as I could take him,” she said. “He’s been to Australia for three weeks when we toured Australia. We came back through Hawaii, where we stayed a week. He’s been to London, to Canada and all over the United States.”
Now 24, Ware is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta and is trying to break into the music business.
“He got to do a lot,” Maillard said. “I remember that after every concert when we were doing autograph sessions, he would stand in the line and would get his program signed.”
Born and reared in Philadelphia, Maillard went to Catholic University of America in Washington on a scholarship as a violin performance major. Now her son plays violin.
She later changed her major to theater. It was at the D.C. Black Repertory Co. that she met Reagon and began Sweet Honey in the Rock.
However, she hasn’t abandoned acting altogether. She’s been in Broadway and off-Broadway shows including “Eubie,” “Comin’ Uptown,” “Beehive” and “Forever My Darling.”
She’s also been in the films “Beloved” and “Thirty Years to Life.”
On television, her resume includes “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,” “Law and Order” and “Law and Order: SVU.”
Sandra Okamoto can be reached at 706-571-8580.