Apollo's Fire Presents SEPHARDIC JOURNEY: WANDERINGS OF THE SPANISH JEWS, 2/20-25
Apollo's Fire proudly unveils a new, creative program by Music Director Jeannette Sorrell, in collaboration with guest Co-Director Nell Snaidas. Sephardic Journey will be premiered in five concerts throughout Northeast Ohio, including two performances at a synagogue.
The program follows the musical journey of the Sephardic Jews, who flourished in Spain during the 14th century and were then exiled and dispersed across the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In the tradition of Sorrell's previous crossover programs such as A Celtic Christmas (now a best-selling CD), this new program interweaves sacred early music with the folk music of the period. In this case, highlights from the choral work, Songs of Solomon, by Jewish baroque composer Salamone Rossi are interwoven with the Sephardic folk songs sung by Rossi's people during times of celebration, mourning, feasting and romance.
Soprano Nell Snaidas, guest Co-Director, is one of the leading proponents of Sephardic music today. She has been steeped in the repertoire since her youth, and is a specialist in Ladino song. (Ladino is the language spoken by the Sephardic Jews in Spain.) "Nell Snaidas' knowledge of Sephardic song as a living art... made even evergreen classics feel new" (The Cornell Sun). Nell has been featured on CBC radio alongside Montserrat Figueras and Victoria de los Angeles.
Likewise, Sorrell has won international acclaim and awards for her creative crossover programs, exploring the relationships between early folk music and art music in an historical aesthetic. Describing her previous Mediterranean program, the Plain Dealer wrote, "Scholarly, yet vastly entertaining. . . The blend of music, history and sociology was so seamless that a listener could sit back and absorb the avalanche of influences and idioms without feeling as if trapped in a lecture. That was the beauty of the artistry. Sorrell consistently devises creative, thought-provoking programs and assembles cracker-jack artists, resulting in compelling artistic experiences."
Salamone Rossi was a fascinating composer. Living in Mantua, Italy, in the early 17th century, he worked at the Duke's palace alongside the great Monteverdi. But at night, he walked home to the Jewish ghetto, where he lived with his family. At night, he composed the Songs of Solomon - a large choral work in baroque style with Hebrew text - for his own people.
Sephardic Journey opens with a sequence called "Oh Jerusalem!" in which a traditional Sephardic chant of nostalgia for the homeland receives dramatic treatment. This transitions into a set called "The Temple" featuring sacred Hebrew chant sung by the Sephardic Jews in Spain in the middle ages, as well as Salamone Rossi's splendid settings of these texts in early 17th-century Italian baroque style. A set of love songs closes the first half. The second half evokes the sacred music of a Sabbath service, followed by wedding and feasting music, where the rhythms of the "cymbalum" or hammered dulcimer set toes tapping.
In addition to the acclaimed Apollo's Singers, the program features guest soloists Karim Sulayman (tenor) and Jeffrey Strauss (baritone). Strauss grew up as a young protégé cantor in the synagogue, and brings authenticity, passion and authority to these performances of Hebrew chant.
The colorful ensemble includes lutes, oud, strings, and favorite guest Rex Benincasa on exotic percussion, as well as local favorite Tina Bergmann on hammered dulcimer.
Select biographies are at the end of this press release.
TICKETS for local performances start at $21. Student, senior, young adult, and group discounts are available in select seating sections, and may only be obtained by calling the box office. Student tickets are free in Akron, made possible by the GAR Foundation. Tickets are available through the Apollo's Fire box office at (216) 320-0012 or online at www.apollosfire.org.
PRE-CONCERT TALKS will be given by lutenist Dr. Daniel Shoskes, M.D., one hour before each concert. Shoskes will be joined by Rabbi Roger C. Klein for the two performances at The Temple Tifereth Israel. Join the large and lively crowd who comes for this popular series of talks! Talks are sponsored by the Friends of Apollo's Fire.
Thursday, February 20, 7:30 PM Fairlawn Lutheran Church
3415 West Market Street
Fairlawn, OH 44333
Friday, February 21, 8:00 PM St. Paul's Episcopal Church
2747 Fairmount Blvd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
Saturday, February 22, 8:00PM* The Temple - Tifereth Israel
2600 Shaker Blvd..
Beachwood, OH 44122
Sunday, February 23, 4:00PM Rocky River Presbyterian Church
21750 Detroit Rd.
Rocky River, OH 44116
Tuesday, February 25, 7:30 PM The Temple - Tifereth Israel
2600 Shaker Blvd..
Beachwood, OH 44122
* The Temple's visiting artist, Mordechai Rosenstein and his artwork will be available in the lobby for browsing and purchase at this concert. A world-renowned Jewish artist, Mr. Rosenstein embellishes the Hebrew and English letters to give them a special rhythm on the page.
Jeannette Sorrell, Music Director, has quickly gained international attention as a leading voice among the new generation of early music conductors. She has been credited by the U.K.'s BBC Music Magazine for "forging a vibrant, life-affirming approach to the re-making of early music... a seductive vision of musical authenticity."
Born of Swiss and American parents, Sorrell was one of the youngest students ever accepted to the prestigious conducting courses of the Aspen and the Tanglewood music festivals. She studied conducting under Robert Spano, Roger Norrington and Leonard Bernstein, and harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. She won both the First Prize and the Audience Choice Award in the 1991 Spivey International Harpsichord Competition, competing against over 70 harpsichordists from Europe, Israel, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. She holds an Artist Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory.
Sorrell founded Apollo's Fire in 1992. Since then, she and the ensemble have built one of the largest audiences of any baroque orchestra in North America. She has led AF in sold-out concerts at London's Wigmore Hall, Madrid's Royal Theatre (Teatro Real), the Grand Théâtre de l'Opéra in Bordeaux, Boston's Early Music Festival, the Library of Congress in Washington, the Aspen Music Festival; engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto; and an 11-concert U.S. tour of the Monteverdi Vespers.
Sorrell made her much-acclaimed debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony in April as conductor and soloist in the complete Brandenburg Concertos. With standing ovations every night, the event was hailed as "an especially joyous occasion" (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). Upcoming conducting engagements include the Omaha Symphony and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. She has also conducted the Seattle Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society in Boston, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis with the St. Louis Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony (conductor and soloist) and the Akron Symphony; and appeared as guest keyboard artist with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Sorrell and Apollo's Fire have released 20 commercial CDs, of which four have been bestsellers on the Billboard classical chart. Her recordings include the complete Brandenburg Concerti and harpsichord concerti of Bach (with Sorrell as harpsichord soloist and director), which was praised by the London Times as "a swaggering version... brilliantly played by Sorrell." She has also released four discs of Mozart, and was hailed as "a near-perfect Mozartian" by Fanfare Record Magazine. Other recordings include Handel's Messiah, the Monteverdi Vespers and two creative crossover projects: "Come to the River: An Early American Gathering" and "Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers."
Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for creative programming. She holds an honorary doctorate from Case Western University, two special awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on early American music, and awards from the Cambridge Society of Early Music and the American Musicological Society. Passionate about guiding the next generation of performers, Ms. Sorrell has led many baroque projects for students at Oberlin Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Nell Snaidas, Co-Director & soprano, has performed throughout Europe, North and Latin America. She has portrayed Valletto/Amore in the Boston Early Music Festival's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, toured with lutenist Paul O'Dette and Tragicomedia, concertized throughout Italy with Ex Umbris and sung with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. One of today's leading interpreters of Sephardic song, she studied under Nico Castel at the Mannes College of Music, Kay Kaufman Shelemey at the Jewish Theological Seminary and as a member of the Gerard Edery Ensemble (led by Gerard Edery, winner of the Sephardic Heritage Award). Ms. Snaidas starred internationally as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, was heard in Mel Brooks' The Producers and was a soloist in the Broadway cast-album Hair. She collaborated with Alicia Keys in arranging her song "Superwoman" for Kathleen Battle for the 2008 America Music Awards. She has recorded for Sony, Dorian, Koch and Naxos, and her recording of 17th and 18th century Spanish music was nominated for a 2012 Grammy. Ms. Snaidas serves as Co-Artistic Director of GEMAS, a new concert series in New York City devoted to Early Music of the Americas.
Karim Sulayman, tenor, is consistently praised for his sensitive musicality, vivid portrayals, and beautiful vocalism. With a vast repertoire that spans renaissance to contemporary music, the young tenor has firmly established himself as a sophisticated and versatile artist of his generation. This season Mr. Sulayman completed his third summer at the Marlboro Music Festival and performed Eumete in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria with Opera Omnia. He debuts with Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and the Windsor Symphony, and returns to Apollo's Fire for multiple engagements.
Recent highlights include engagements at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Apollo's Fire, the Casals Festival, Aspen Music Festival and the International Bach Festival. His growing discography includes the title role in Handel's Acis and Galatea, and two releases for NAXOS in works of Philidor and Grétry. Mr. Sulayman's musical education began with violin studies at age 3, followed by years as a boy alto soloist, including performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Sir Georg Solti and the St. Louis Symphony under Leonard Slatkin. He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Rice University. He also studied sketch comedy and improvisation at the Second City Training Center in Chicago.
Jeffrey Strauss, baritone, has been a frequent guest with Apollo's Fire for many years. He has also worked with other leading period instrument groups including Tafelmusik, the Taverner Consort, Consort of Musicke, Tempesta di Mare, the Handel & Haydn Society and the Newberry Consort in Chicago. Strauss began singing professionally as a Jewish cantor in synagogues at the age of 16. Also an active interpreter of contemporary music, he has given world and regional premieres of works by Leonard Bernstein, Milton Babbitt, Ralph Shapey, Geoffrey Burgon and Lawrence Axelrod. He has appeared regularly with the Chicago Chamber Musicians in their Composer Perspective series, performing music of Stravinsky, Arvo Pärt and Ned Rorem. Recent performances include Paul Schoenfield's Camp Songs with Fulcrum Point at the Harris Theatre in Chicago, the world premiere of Lawrence Axelrod's Three Quilt Songs with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley and the role of Haman in Handel's Mordecai and Haman, an early version of Esther. Mr. Strauss studied singing with Elsa Charlston in Chicago, Yvonne Rodd-Marling in London and Gérard Souzay in Paris, and is featured on Apollo's Fire's recent recording of Messiah.
Rex Benincasa, percussion, is a world music specialist. He has performed with ALBA Consort, Ensemble Caprice, Flamenco Latino, Carlota Santana Spanish Dance, Zorongo Flamenco Dance, the Grammy Orchestra and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He has recorded CDs and movie soundtracks for numerous artists including Philip Glass, Sesame Street, NFL Films, Angelica Women's Chamber Choir and the Ivory Consort. Broadway appearances include Fosse, The Full Monty, Flower Drum Song, Man Of La Mancha, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray, The Color Purple, Billy Elliot and Motown. Rex likes all kinds of music.
Tina Bergmann, hammered dulcimer, earned her Bachelor's degree from Kent State University. In demand as a teacher at festivals and camps, she has been hailed by Pete Seeger as "the best hammered dulcimer player I've heard in my life." Her contra dance bands Strings & Things and Hu$hmoney have
explored traditional American and Celtic dance music. A cornerstone of the Apollo's Fire folk-baroque crossover programs, she has performed throughout the US, including appearances at the Ojai Music Festival and at Chautauqua gatherings in Boulder, Colorado and Chautauqua, New York.
Apollo's Fire: Named for the classical god of music and the sun, Apollo's Fire was founded in 1992 by the award winning young harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell. Sorrell envisioned an ensemble dedicated to the baroque ideal that music should evoke the various Affekts or passions in the listeners. Apollo's Fire is a collection of creative artists who share Jeannette Sorrell's passion for drama and rhetoric.
Hailed as "one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles" (The Independent, London), Apollo's Fire made its London debut in 2010 in a sold-out concert at Wigmore Hall, with BBC broadcast. Apollo's Fire returned to Europe in fall 2011 as part of a major international tour with the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. The ensemble was met with standing ovations in Madrid (Teatro Real), Bordeaux (Grand Théàtre de l'Opéra), Lisbon, Metz, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Apollo's Fire has also toured throughout North America, appearing at the Aspen Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival series, the Library of Congress, the Tropical Baroque Festival in Miami and the Ojai International Festival in California. In October 2010 the ensemble performed the Monteverdi Vespers in an 11-concert national tour. At home in Cleveland, Apollo's Fire enjoys sold-out performances at its subscription series, which has drawn national attention for creative programming.
Apollo's Fire has released 20 commercial CDs, and currently records for the British label AVIE. Since the ensemble's introduction into the European CD market in 2010, the recordings have won rave reviews in the London press: "a swaggering version, brilliantly played" (The Times) and "the Midwest's best-kept musical secret is finally reaching British ears" (The Independent). Four of the ensemble's CD releases have become best-sellers on the classical Billboard chart: the Monteverdi Vespers, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, and Jeannette Sorrell's two crossover programs, Come to the River and Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers.