Singing in Sign

Three hours of pure enjoyment and wonder. This is what I experienced at The O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on April 23, 2005. […]

Three hours of pure enjoyment and wonder. This is what I experienced at The O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on April 23, 2005. I always buy tickets for a concert or play for my mother around her birthday and Christmas. This year, Sweet Honey in the Rock was making their Twin Cities appearance the day before my mother’s 87th birthday and I was lucky enough to get tickets for this sold out performance.

I sat mesmerized by the talents of the wonderful singers and how they bring music together with only their voices and no musical instruments. For most of the evening, I watched Shirley Childress Saxton sign the songs in American Sign Language (ASL). Shirley is not an interpreter. She is a member of Sweet Honey in the Rock. As the rest of the group is singing, she is signing along with the words, not waiting for them to sing then sign, she is right on with the words. If I was unable to hear the words of the singers, I assure you I still would have felt the vibrant vocals through Saxton’s signing.

I watched her sign for most of three songs, and even though I do not know sign language, I was aware when the words were being sung in different harmony. As her actions and gyrations gained tempo so did the words that the singers were singing.

The members of the group are community activists, performers, singers and songwriters. They are dynamic and powerful women. The songs are about the struggles of African Americans, especially women and survivors of sexual abuse. Their trip to the Twin Cities brought attention to Sexual Assault Awareness month, which is April.

My mother says it was the best three hours she has spent lately. I wish all my time with my mother could be spent like those three wonderful hours. If you ever have an opportunity to see Sweet Honey in the Rock, I suggest you go. You will not forget the evening.

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