Apollo's Fire Announces 2014-15 Season, Which Includes THE MONTEVERDI VESPERS OF 1610, Handel's MESSIAH and More
Apollo's Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, proudly announces its 23rd season under Music Director Jeannette Sorrell. Recently praised for its "European stylishness combined with 'can-do' American entrepreneurism" (THE TELEGRAPH, LONDON), and described as "American bohemian chic...exuberant...flamboyant and fun." (THE BIRMINGHAM POST, U.K.), Apollo's Fire plays to sold-out houses around the world - from London and Madrid to New York, Boston, Toronto and Los Angeles. The ensemble strives to revive the true spirit of baroque performances-not only with period instruments, but with the emotional impact the music was intended to convey. In addition to being in high demand for international touring, Apollo's Fire also enjoys one of the largest baroque subscription audiences in the nation, and its subscription programs in Northeast Ohio have repeatedly been chosen by GRAMOPHONE and BBC MAGAZINE as among the "Top 20 Concerts in North America."
For AF's 2014-15 line-up, Sorrell has chosen a lively and varied season while also paying tribute to J.S. Bach in honor of his 330th birthday. The year-long Bach celebration opens with an evening of Bach's "Orchestral Fireworks," continues with a visit to Bach's household in the winter for a "Family Frolic" and winds up in the spring with an homage to Bach's most admired colleague, Vivaldi - including a Vivaldi piece that Bach transcribed.
New innovations in the 2014-15 season include a collaboration with the Music Box Supper Club in February to bring a Valentine's Day special dinner and concert - "The Blues Café, 1610." In addition, AF offers co-presentations with Kent State University (December 3), the Performing Arts Center at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium (December 7), and Lake Erie College (April 23); and appears at the Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall in January. The season includes seven subscription programs (30 concerts) spanning four Northeast Ohio counties, in addition to diverse educational offerings and touring (see below headings).
This season also marks the 20th anniversary of AF's subscription series in Akron. The ensemble will celebrate this milestone with special outreach initiatives in Akron as well as a gala special event on May 31.
Apollo's Fire opens the season in October with a celebration of J.S. Bach's 330th birthday. "Bach's Birthday Party - Part I, Orchestral Fireworks" unveils three great Bach pieces never yet played on the AF stage, including Concerto in C minor for Two Harpsichords (featuring Jeannette Sorrell and Joe Gascho on harpsichord), Violin Concerto in E Major (featuring AF concertmaster Olivier Brault), and Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor for Flute & Strings (featuring Kathie Stewart on flute).
In November, AF tackles its signature piece "The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610." This masterpiece of the baroque era combines the exoticism of the East with the structure of the West. Sorrell's interpretation has won international acclaim -the recording of this project reaching the Billboard Classical Top 10. THE PLAIN DEALER writes "A resplendent account, brilliantly motivated by Sorrell and performed with vibrant attention to dramatic detail. In short, a thriller from first note to last." Featuring tenors Oliver Mercer and Karim Sulayman and sopranos Molly Quinn and Nell Snaidas alongside the exquisite Apollo's Singers, the program performs in four local concerts before embarking on a seven-city national tour, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
In December, AF once again reprises its popular holiday double-bill format, offering performances of "Sacrum Mysterium - A Celtic Christmas Vespers" and "Handel's Messiah." Now a Billboard Classical best-selling CD, the "Celtic Christmas" program has enamored sold-out audiences the past three years in Akron and Cleveland. This tapestry of chant, pagan carols and joyous dance and fiddle tunes reprises performances by soprano Meredith Hall, dancer/guitarist Steve Player, and Sylvain Bergeron's Ensemble La Nef of Montreal. This year, Apollo's Fire presents the program at Kent State University on Dec. 3, before bringing it to NY City where AF will make its debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 5. A final performance in Cleveland takes place December 7 under the auspices of the Performing Arts Center at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium.
"Handel's Messiah" performs December 11-15. Featuring favorite vocalists Meredith Hall (soprano), Amanda Powell (mezzo-soprano), Ross Hauck (tenor) and Jeffrey Strauss (baritone), Sorrell's acclaimed interpretation takes its cue from Handel's original conception of the piece as a theatrical entertainment. The actor-singers embark on a spiritual and emotional journey, taking the audience along for a thrilling holiday ride. FANFARE RECORD MAGAZINE praises the "freshness, clarity, and enthusiasm... youthful fire and commitment" of AF's Messiah CD recording.
AF opens the new calendar year with a multi-generational tribute to Bach. "Bach's Birthday Party, Part II: A Family Frolic" tells the musical story of a day at the Bach family home. Papa Bach had his hands full with a house overflowing with kids, a rebellious teenage daughter, and the perilous attraction of Coffee down the street. This concert features AF's Young Apprentices, including Madeline Healey (soprano) and Cynthia Black (violin), alongside veteran AF principal players in a staged performance of the Coffee Cantata. Healey, recently praised for her "gorgeous singing" (THE WASHINGTON POST) at her Kennedy Center debut, takes center stage as Bach's favorite daughter, Lieschen. This program is part of the Fireside Concert Series - 90 minute programs followed by coffee and conversation with the artists. Dates are January 22-25.
"Blues Café 1610" performs February 12-16. Re-creating a café in Italy or Spain and featuring four singers (Nell Snaidas, Oliver Mercer, Karim Sulayman, and Jeffrey Strauss), plucked instruments, violins and exotic percussion (Rex Benincasa) - musicians "jam" on the popular "blues" bass lines of the time. The program includes works by Monteverdi, Castello, Capricornus, Bertali and others. In addition to performances in Beachwood, Cleveland Heights, Rocky River, and Fairlawn, Apollo's Fire has teamed with Cleveland's Music Box Supper Club for a special Valentine's event - dinner with the baroque jam session!
In its final subscription program of the season, AF presents two weekends of "Vivaldi's Four Seasons: rediscovered." THE PLAIN DEALER praised AF's last performance of these gems for its "artistic passion, inexhaustible energy...and keen musical observations." Discover what Jeannette Sorrell calls the "rock 'n' roll" qualities of this music - featuring the dynamic Olivier Brault on violin. Plus - as a final season tribute to Bach, AF favorites René Schiffer (cello), Johanna Novom (violin) and Julie Andrijeski (violin) solo in a Vivaldi piece that J.S. Bach transcribed.
Touring & Recording
Apollo's Fire is excited to announce its debut at the prestigious BBC Proms on Saturday, August 15, 2015. This will be the group's third visit to London. Of AF's last visit in May, the Telegraph praised AF's "superlative music-making," while the CLASSICAL SOURCE, LONDON writes, "The ever-growing reputation of Apollo's Fire - an ensemble based in Cleveland, Ohio - ensured a substantial and very appreciate audience. This well-planned programme demonstrated to perfection the players' high artistry... This was a supremely satisfying concert on every level. A further appearance in London by Apollo's Fire would be very welcome."
National touring engagements for the 2014-15 season include AF's debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on December 5, performing Sorrell's acclaimed "Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers." Additionally, the group will complete a national tour of the "Monteverdi Vespers of 1610", performing November 2-14 at the University of Illinois, Urbana; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; the University of Florida, Gainesville; Houston Early Music; University of Texas, Austin; Cal Performances, Berkeley; and Stanford University, Palo Alto in addition to local performances in Cleveland and Akron. This tour is underwritten by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.