Liz Levitt Hirsch, third from left, with Sweet Honey in the Rocks Ysaye Maria… (Marina Milosevic )
Members of a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock were greeted with holiday wishes at a Champagne reception backstage after their Dec. 19 concert at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Actress Alfre Woodard said if her heart could sing, "that is the sound it would make. The music comes from the heart of women. I am uplifted and I grow strong from hearing it."
The group's mission, according to member Ysaye Maria Barnwell, is "preserving and extending the African American music traditions." And with a repertoire combining gospel with songs about love, peace and justice, their music also comes with a message.
"We want people to get involved, to raise their voices, to be a blessing to their community," said Carol Maillard, a member since the group's inception in 1973.
Production underwriter Liz Levitt Hirsch, of the Levitt Pavilions, attended, along with actress Maggie Wheeler, former members Rosie Lee Hooks, director of L.A.'s Watts Tower Arts Center, and Arnae Batson; and current Sweet Honey members Barnwell, Maillard, Louise Robinson, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Shirley Childress Saxton and Aisha Kahlil.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion concerts
Earlier that same day, two more concerts took place in adjoining salons in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, each complete with receptions for concertgoers.
At Le Salon de Musiques, Act 1 was the music and Act 2 was a Q&A, followed by a buffet supper, where guests could continue the conversation. "If you don't come up with good questions, you won't get fed," warned concertmaster Phillip Levy at the concert's start. He added, "And, if we don't play well, we won't get fed."
Bernard Philippe, chief executive of Angeles Concerts Artists Corp., said the group began its Sunday chamber music concert series, scheduled through May, in order to present music in a friendly, informal setting. "For us, Marie Antoinette is our muse," he said. "We want to create the atmosphere of her salons at the Petit Trianon. The intimacy is important to us."
Artistic directors Levy, Philippe and the group's founder, Francois Chouchan, joined musicians Amy Herschberger, Victoria Miskolczy, David Low and Stuart Clark, and guests including Michael Ott, cultural affairs consul for L.A.'s German consulate, a series co-sponsor; Gil Artzyeli, Israel's deputy consul general, and his wife Viviana; José Gil Oslé, Spain's vice-consul general, and his wife Sylvie; Raulee Marcus and Judith Flex Helle.
Just next door, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus staged a holiday salon concert, featuring the LACC Chamber Singers and alumni artists Ariadne Greif, Albert Wonjae Pae, Andrew Wonjun Pae and Adrienne Pardee.
Director Deborah Berman said the group, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, draws from 60 communities throughout Los Angeles to provide choral music education to 350 youngsters, of which more than 20% receive full or partial scholarships.
The chorus has toured North and South America, China, Europe and Australia and performs regularly with L.A.'s major musical organizations. "We're the 'go-to' group for the L.A. Phil and the L.A. Opera," said director of development Julie Larson.