Apollo's Fire Kicks Off New Summer Program, GLORY ON THE MOUNTAIN, Now thru 6/22
For its 2014 Countryside series, Apollo's Fire proudly premieres "GLORY ON THE MOUNTAIN: An Appalachian Journey." Created and directed by Jeannette Sorrell and starring singers Amanda Powell and Ross Hauck, the program will be performed in 8 concerts in rustic venues in Hunting Valley, Chardon, Bay Village and Bath, today, June 12-22.
Five years ago, Apollo's Fire's first foray into Appalachian music - "COME TO THE RIVER: An Early American Gathering" - premiered in 9 sold-out concerts and soon became a Billboard Classical Top-10 CD. It was hailed as "A fascinating journey . . . which a sold-out audience savored. The theatrical aspects are so charmingly realized that you can't help but wonder if a sequel is in store." (The Cleveland Plain Dealer). The American Record Guide called the CD "one of the most joyous releases, intoxicated by the sheer joy of being alive."
Since then, requests have poured in for "more, please!" However, Sorrell, who created "Come to the River," felt that any new Appalachian program from AF must be unique in its own right. "I didn't want to do a follow-up program if it was just going to be more of the same," she said. "I wanted to go more deeply into the repertoire and its historical roots - and more deeply into the Appalachian psyche and experience."
She spent the past two years contemplating this new program, researching the renaissance British Isles repertoire that took root in Appalachia, and building a troupe of artists whose unique talents cross the lines of early music and traditional British Isles and Appalachian folk music.
Through music, song and a bit of storytelling, "GLORY ON THE MOUNTAIN" explores the joys and sorrows of daily life among the early settlers in Appalachia. Sorrell said, "The rich repertoire of renaissance English and Scottish ballads took on its own life in Appalachia during the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. As the old songs came across the water, they evolved into different versions reflecting the Appalachian psyche and experience. Likewise, the lively fiddle tunes of the British Isles appear in Appalachian sources in differing versions," she said. "And then, these people encountered the African slaves and their spirituals. I think at that point, when the British Isles music met the influence of the spirituals, that's when Appalachian music came fully into its own as a unique and distinctive repertoire."
Sorrell and her colleagues follow the "journey" of these songs as they evolve from their British and Celtic roots into distinctly Appalachian versions. At the same time, the program follows the "journey" of the British and Celtic immigrants - mostly impoverished - who crossed the Atlantic and settled in the mountains to build new lives. Passing through love and loss, dancing and prayer, the music overflows in celebration as the people of the mountains raise their communal voices.
As with "Come to the River" and the equally popular "Celtic Christmas" program, Sorrell has built this program around the unique talents and personalities of the individuals involved. Performers include:
- Amanda Powell, soprano vocals - a young and brilliant early music artist who grew up singing Appalachian songs "loudly from the back of my grandpa's pick-up truck in West Virginia," as she describes. Powell was featured with AF last spring in the national tour of "Come to the River."
- Ross Hauck, tenor vocals - beloved by AF audiences for his performances in both Handel's Messiah and Celtic folk programs. The grandson of a Southern preacher, he is deeply steeped in southern folk hymns and storytelling.
- Tina Bergmann, hammered dulcimer - a regular favorite with AF, Tina is widely regarded as the leading dulcimer player of North America. Peter Seeger called her "the best dulcimer player I've heard in my life."
- Susanna Perry Gilmore, fiddle - studied violin performance and musicology at Oxford University in the UK, while also playing Celtic folk music in pubs with traditional Irish musicians. Though presently concertmaster of the Omaha Symphony, she grew up playing country fiddle.
The program also features AF favorites Kathie Stewart on wooden flutes and René Schiffer on cello, as well Brian Kay on lute, guitar and banjo. (Full bios follow at the end of this press release.)
The program includes historic/traditional Elizabethan/Appalachian ballads such as Twa Sisters (Two Sisters) and Edward & Queen Jane; British and Celtic fiddle tunes such as Farewell to Ireland, The Highlander's Farewell, and Over the Isles to America; early American party/play songs such as A Frog He Went a-Courtin' and Robin Hood (a 3-part round with audience participation); a set of virtuoso fiddle variations on Oh Susannah; early American shape-note hymns; a couple of early Civil War songs; spirituals such as Oh Mary Don't You Weep and Glory, Glory (Lay My Burden Down); and a bluegrass song called Sweet Appalachia.
Sorrell said she is excited to have the chance to create a second early American program. "With 'Come to the River,' I was pretty much a newcomer to the field," she said. "I spent two years putting together that program, but I was just starting to get to know the repertoire and the style. I thought we would workshop the program the first year - presenting it only for our local audience, before taking it on tour. But instead, it ended up premiering in 9 sold-out concerts - that's not really a workshop! So I felt I never got the chance to experiment. This time, I have the foundation of everything I learned about this music and this type of programming, and I'm building on that. I feel I'm starting from a deeper place. And I'm thrilled about the fantastic colleagues who will be performing."
The Countryside Series this year includes two Special Events:
- Young Adult Night: The Friday, June 20 at Bath Church, UCC, in Bath, Ohio. This evening is open to the general public, but will feature steep discounts for anyone under the age of 30. The concert will be followed by refreshments, conversation with the artists, and an Old-Fashioned Country Dance on the Lawn (weather permitting).
- Children's Concert: Join select musicians for a 45-minute children's version of the concert presented on Saturday, June 21, 4:00 PM at the Bath Church - for the young and young-at-heart! $10 Adults / $5 Children under 18.
Apollo's Fire and the Crossover/Folk Tradition: For over 15 years, Apollo's Fire has developed a unique ensemble of crossover artists who specialize in early American and British Isles traditional repertoire, performing on period instruments in a historically informed aesthetic, but with the lively freedom of folk performers. These artists strive to break down the modern barrier between art music and popular music and to revive the "crossover" spirit of the 17th century, when great composers regularly wrote artful variations on street tunes and tavern songs.
Music Director Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo's Fire have won special distinction for their pioneering work in early American repertoire. Sorrell's premiere early American program, titled "Spirit of '96," received the Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society for reconstructions of compositions by early American composers and arrangements of Ohio folk songs. This was followed by a British Isles program called "Scarborough Fayre," which can be heard on CD on the Koch International Classics label. Sorrell's early American program "Come to the River" premiered in 2009 with 9 sold-out concerts in Northeast Ohio. The program has since toured throughout the U.S, and the international CD released on British label AVIE became a top-10 bestseller on the classical Billboard Chart.
In 2011 Apollo's Fire introduced crossover programing on its regular subscription series season with "Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas." Welcomed by audiences as "A grand holiday stew made from deliciously blended sacred and secular ingredients" (The Cleveland Plain Dealer), the program reprised in 2012 and 2013 to sold-out audiences regionally. An international CD release of the program reached number 11 on the Billboard Classical Charts.