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by Daniel Hathaway

AFatLECApollo’s Fire will present seven local subscription programs totaling thirty concerts during its 23rd season in 2014-2015. Additionally, Cleveland’s baroque orchestra will make its debut at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in December and at London’s BBC Proms next August, undertake a national tour of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in November, and appear on the Pittsburgh Renaissance & Baroque Society series in April.

The subscription concerts, to be presented in several venues, will begin with “Orchestral Fireworks,” the first of two celebrations of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 330th birthday. The programs will include works new to Apollo’s Fire’s repertory: the double harpsichord concerto in c (featuring artistic director Jeannette Sorrell and Joe Gascho), the Violin Concerto in E (featuring Olivier Brault) and the second orchestral suite (featuring flutist Kathie Stewart). The four concerts will run from October 9-12. Read the rest of this entry »


by Daniel Hathaway

McFarlane-HallDuring the first of her amusing asides to an audience who had just slogged through snowdrifts on Sunday afternoon, soprano Meredith Hall noted that the subtitle of this year’s Apollo’s Fire’s Fireside Concerts was “Drive the Cold Winter Away.” “We have failed!” she added, ruefully.

Well, maybe the Polar Vortex and its aftermath had chilled patrons to the bone on the way to Rocky River Presbyterian Church, but the English music from the 16th and 17th centuries that awaited them inside warmed the cockles of the soul, even with no fireplace in sight.

Hall was joined by lutenists Ronn McFarlane and William Sims (who doubled on theorbo) and flutist Kathie Stewart (who also played recorder) in an engaging, two-hour journey through the ballad repertory which supplied house music for the well-to-do and lyrics for Everyman to sing to familiar tunes during the flowering of poetry and music in Renaissance England. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway and Mike Telin

McFarlane-Hall“Now winter nights enlarge / The number of their hours; / And clouds their storms discharge / Upon the airy towers. / Let now the chimneys blaze / And cups o’erflow with wine, / Let well-tuned words amaze / With harmony divine.”

Soprano Meredith Hall will begin this week’s Apollo’s Fire Fireside Concerts, “Drive the Cold Winter Away,” with those sentiments by sixteenth-century poet, composer and lutenist Thomas Campion from his song of the same name. “Given the way the winter has been — power outages and such — this theme is a fairly easy one to latch onto,” Hall said in a phone conversation. “What we’re doing is banding together and having an evening celebrating something warm!”

“Campion’s song inspired the program,” said Grammy-nominated lutenist and guest music director Ronn McFarlane, also in a phone conversation. “It’s an Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan show focusing on the English ballad repertoire featuring works by Dowland, Purcell and my favorite composer, Anonymous. Billy [William] Sims will join us on lute and theorbo and Kathie Stewart will play flute and recorder.”

Ballads were the popular music of the Elizabethan period, often circulated as “broadsides” or printed sheets of lyrics that could be fitted to tunes — or families of tunes — that everybody knew and which may have originated as improvisations over bass patterns like the Romanesca. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

AF-Sacrum-MysteriumSince it premiered in December of 2011, Apollo’s Fire’s Sacrum Mysterium – A Celtic Christmas, has become a holiday favorite of area audiences. From Tuesday, December 3 through December 8 at locations through Northeast Ohio, Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire will present five performances of their acclaimed production that celebrates Celtic artistic traditions, interweaving Renaissance choral music with ancient pagan carols, folk dances and joyous fiddle tunes.

A colorful band of bagpipes, flutes, strings, and Celtic harp will join Apollo’s Singers. The performances also mark the return of three of Apollo’s Fire’s favorite guest artists — Canadian soprano Meredith Hall, British baroque guitarist and step dancer Steve Player and hammered dulcimer virtuoso Tina Bergmann. reviewer William Fazekas called Sacrum Mysterium “…a careful balance of the familiar and the exotic [that includes] traditional Christmas songs [such as] The Coventry Carol, [and] early music standards” such as the 17th century Scottish carol Come, My Children Dere, and the instrumental numbers Scotch Cap and Wild Geese.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SORRELL-JeannetteAfter I congratulated her on launching her ensemble’s twenty-second season, Apollo’s Fire founder and artistic director Jeannette Sorrell said, “We’re into adulthood now, and we’re in a really fantastic place regarding our artistic reputation.” Cleveland patrons don’t need to be reminded of the high quality of playing their resident baroque orchestra turns in on a regular basis, but a wider audience is now sitting up and paying attention.

One indication of Apollo’s Fire’s “grown-up” status: the ensemble has recently been picked up by Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI), “a big stamp of approval”, Sorrell said. “We’re the first period instrument orchestra to appear on their roster, and after twenty-one years of honing our craft and trying to perfect our art, it’s great to be getting global attention.”

We reached Jeannette Sorrell via Skype last weekend to chat about the multiple performances of seven programs that local audiences will enjoy in area church venues this season. It all begins with “Virtuoso Orchestra”, which opens on Thursday, October 10 at First Methodist in Akron and will be repeated on October 11 and 12 at Fairmount Presbyterian in Cleveland Heights and on October 13 at Rocky River Presbyterian.

Sorrell promises that the program will live up to its name with dazzling performances including Vivaldi’s concerto for four violins, Bach’s fourth Brandenburg Concerto and a novelty for local audiences, a concerto by J.D. Heinichen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Hathaway
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