Apollo's Fire Performs SEPHARDIC JOURNEY This Weekend
Back by popular demand - Apollo's Fire reprises its latest creative crossover program by Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell, in collaboration with guest co-director Nell Snaidas. "Sephardic Journey: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews" premiered in five sold-out concerts in February 2014.
The program will be performed this weekend, February 4-7, at several venues, including an important debut at the new Maltz Performing Arts Center of Case Western Reserve University. The performances will coincide with a highly anticipated release of the program on CD, for British record label AVIE.
Cast out of Jerusalem, cast out of Spain.
The Spanish Jews in their travels absorbed the colorful musical accents of Italy, Turkey and North Africa,
including exotic percussion. This musical journey interweaves Sephardic folk song with highlights
from the Monteverdi-like Hebrew choral work of Salamone Rossi - the Songs of Solomon.
The daily rhythms of life and love meet the mystical prayers of Shabbat.
PRESS QUOTES from the 2014 premiere:
"The question one might ask, upon experiencing Apollo's Fire's new "Sephardic Journey," is why they waited so long to put it together. It certainly has the potential to be the ensemble's biggest hit since their long-running "Celtic Christmas Vespers" presentation. If one is to judge from the audience's acclaim at Friday night's performance, Sorrell and company have a new favorite on their hands, one which is likely to become a regular event." - THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
"Apollo's Fire shone forth in another innovative and brilliant new program: Sephardic Journey. Collaborating co-directors conductor Jeannette Sorrell and soprano Nell Snaidas created a new listening adventure that incorporated voices and instruments to devise (dare I say?) a magic carpet that swept Sunday afternoon's large audience away. It was often a deeply moving journey."
"Apollo's Fire sets Cleveland aflame... Who says American early music bands can't play European music? The Cleveland-based early music ensemble that will be touring the UK and Austria in May, took local fans on a journey to medieval Spain this past weekend with delightfully authentic songs of the Sephardic Jews. The spirit and sound of the music could have come straight out of a Middle Eastern bazaar, mixed with spices ranging from ancient prayer chants to Italian Baroque. ...In all, a scholarly, imaginative program that only a skillful and adventuresome ensemble could pull off. The packed house it attracted suggests that for both players and audiences, there are fascinating worlds to explore beyond the traditional borders of Baroque.
- BACHTRACK.COM (international classical music website based in Europe)
"Under its founder and director Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo's Fire has developed a local, national, and international reputation for its vivid and passionate interpretations of early music on period instruments. Now, Sorrell has taken her programming to a new level in a showcase of Jewish music from Spain and Italy. With performers of such reliable quality and a director who choreographs the proceedings down to the tiniest detail, Apollo's Fire always puts on a good show.... 'Sephardic Journey' is a keeper."
- CLASSICAL VOICE OF NORTH AMERICA (Journal of the Music Critics' Association of North America)
ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
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 Sacrum Mysterium - 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, sacred Hebrew chant and 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.
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, at his home in the Jewish ghetto, he composed the Songs of Solomon - a large choral work in baroque style with Hebrew text - for his own people.
Sephardic Journey unfolds from an opening sequence called "Oh Jerusalem!" in which a traditional Sephardic chant of nostalgia for the homeland receives dramatic treatment. Other sets are called "The Temple" (featuring sacred Hebrew Medieval chant, as well as Salamone Rossi's splendid settings of these texts in early 17th-century Italian baroque style); "Love and Romance" (featuring Ladino songs); "The Sabbath" (including the beloved prayer "Tzur Mishelo"); and "Feasting and Celebration" (including delightful songs about food, with driving percussion in Middle-eastern rhythms).
The program is led by Jeannette Sorrell and features vocal soloists Nell Snaidas (soprano), Jeffrey Strauss (baritone) and Karim Sulayman (tenor). Snaidas is a Sephardic specialist and Strauss grew up in the Hebrew cantorial tradition. The colorful ensemble includes lutes, oud, shawm, wooden flute, harp, strings, and favorite guest Rex Benincasa on exotic percussion, as well as local favorite Tina Bergmann on hammered dulcimer, and the acclaimed Apollo's Singers.
Select biographies are at the end of this press release.
DEBUT AT THE MALTZ PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
The Saturday, February 6 performance will mark Apollo's Fire's debut at Case Western Reserve University's Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple-Tifereth Israel. This will be the first public professional concert to happen at the Maltz Performing Arts Center since the inaugural "Violins of Hope Cleveland" concert on September 27, 2015. The venue is a renowned historic synagogue, formerly known as The Temple-Tifereth Israel. Lovingly restored by Case Western Reserve over the past two years, the concert hall, named in honor of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, seats approximately 1000 and features a gorgeous mix of old and new, restoration and imagination, evoking the building's heritage as a synagogue. Located in University Circle off East 105th Street, the Maltz Performing Arts Center features ample parking.
Apollo's Fire welcomes Early Music America to this concert on February 6. EMA is holding their semi-annual national meeting in Cleveland during this weekend, and the February 6 concert is an official event of the conference. The national board members as well as many regional members will be in attendance.
INTERNATIONAL CD RELEASE:
These concerts are presented in celebration of the international CD release of Sephardic Journey, on British label Avie. This release comes on the heels of two strikingly successful CD releases by Apollo's Fire in 2015: Jeannette Sorrell's creative crossover program Sugarloaf Mountain - An Appalachian Gathering was released in June 2015 (coinciding with concerts including Cain Park in Cleveland Heights) and debuted at #5 on the Billboard Classical Crossover chart, receiving a rave review in Gramophone Magazine. A disc of Handel arias called "The Power of Love," featuring soprano Amanda Forsythe, was released in November (coinciding with a U.S. tour of the program). This CD debuted at #3 on the Billboard Classical chart and also received rave reviews including Classics Today. The Sephardic Journey CD will be available for purchase at the concerts and musicians will be autographing CDs following each concert.
Tickets range from $20 - $68. 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 Fairlawn, made possible by the GAR Foundation. Tickets are available through the Apollo's Fire box office at (216) 320-0012 or online at HYPERLINK "http://www.apollosfire.org"www.apollosfire.org.
PRE- AND POST-CONCERT EVENTS:
AF presents an "Afterglow" (post-concert party) following the Friday, February 5 (St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Cleveland Hts.) and Sunday, February 7 (Baldwin Wallace University, Berea) performances of Sephardic Journey: Wandering of the Spanish Jews. In celebration of the release of this program on CD, the musicians will be autographic CDs. Refreshments available - including mulled drinks and burmuelos (Sephardic donuts with honey or jam).
AF will present its popular FREE Pre-concert Talks one hour prior to each concert. Sephardic Journey talk is presented by Daniel Shoskes, M.D. (lutenist). Join the large and lively crowd that attends!
Thursday, February 4, 7:30 PM Fairlawn Lutheran Church
3415 West Market Street
Fairlawn, OH 44333
Friday, February 5, 8:00 PM* St. Paul's Episcopal Church
2747 Fairmount Blvd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
Saturday, February 6, 8:00PM Maltz Performing Arts Center
Case Western Reserve University (University Circle)
1855 Ansel Road (at E. 105th St.)
Cleveland, OH 44106
Sunday, February 7, 4:00PM* Gamble Auditorium, Baldwin Wallace University
96 Front Street
Berea, OH 44017
*Denotes an Afterglow Party following the concert
Apollo's Fire was founded in 1992 by the award- winning young harpsichordist and conductor HYPERLINK "http://www.apollosfire.org/aboutus/js.html" Jeannette Sorrell. Named for the classical god of music and the sun, 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 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 a BBC broadcast. Subsequent European tours took place in 2011, 2014, and 2015. European performances include sold-out concerts at the BBC Proms in London (with live broadcast across Europe), the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), Madrid's Royal Theatre, Bordeaux's Grand Théàtre de l'Opéra, and major venues in Lisbon, Metz (France), and Bregenz (Austria), as well as concerts on the Birmingham International Series (UK) and the Tuscan Landscapes Festival (Italy).
AF's London 2014 concert was praised as "an evening of superlative music-making... the group combines European stylishness with American entrepreneurialism" (THE TELEGRAPH, UK). This concert was chosen by the TELEGRAPH as one of the "Best 5 Classical Concerts of 2014."
North American tour engagements include the Tanglewood Festival (sold-out debut in 2015), the Aspen Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival series, the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), and major venues in Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The ensemble has performed two major U.S. tours of the Monteverdi Vespers (2010 and 2014) and a 9-concert tour of the Brandenburg Concertos in 2013. Apollo's Fire is signed to Columbia Artists Management (CAMI) for exclusive representation in North and South America, and is managed in the U.K. by Intermusica (London).
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 HYPERLINK "http://www.apollosfire.org/cds/cds.html" 22 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). Six of the ensemble's CD releases have become bestsellers on the classical BILLBOARD chart: the Monteverdi Vespers, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos & Harpsichord Concertos, The Power of Love: Arias from Handel Operas (with soprano Amanda Forsythe) and Jeannette Sorrell's three crossover programs - Come to the River - An Early American Gathering; Sacrum Mysterium- A Celtic Christmas Vespers; and Sugarloaf Mountain - An Appalachian Gathering.
Jeannette Sorrell, Artistic Director & harpsichord, has won international attention as a leading creative voice among the new generation of early-music conductors. She has been credited by BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE for forging "a vibrant, life-affirming approach to the re-making of early music... a seductive vision of musical authenticity." She has won 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."
As a conductor, 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 Roger Norrington, Leonard Bernstein, and Robert Spano. After discovering the harpsichord as a university student, she moved to Amsterdam to study with Gustav Leonhardt. She won both 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.
As the founder and conductor of Apollo's Fire, she has toured and performed throughout North America and Europe, including such venues as the BBC Proms in London, the Madrid Royal Theatre, the Grand Théâtre of Bordeaux, London's Wigmore Hall, the Tanglewood Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival.
As a guest conductor, Sorrell has worked with many of the leading American symphony orchestras. Her debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2013 as conductor and soloist in the complete Brandenburg Concertos was met with standing ovations every night, and hailed as "an especially joyous occasion" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW). She has also led the New World Symphony (Miami), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis with the St. Louis Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), and has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra as guest keyboard artist. In 2014 Ms. Sorrell filled in for British conductor Richard Egarr on five days' notice, leading the complete Brandenburg Concertos and playing the harpsichord solo in Brandenburg no. 5, for the closing concert of the Houston Early Music Festival. In 2015 she returned to the Pittsburgh Symphony as conductor/soloist.
Praised for her "inspired leadership" (THE INDEPENDENT, London), Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for creative programming. She has been a guest several times on the BBC's interview/performance program "In Tune" and NPR's "Performance Today." Six of her 22 commercial recordings have been bestsellers on the BILLBOARD classical chart, including the complete Brandenburg Concerti and harpsichord concerti of Bach (with Sorrell as harpsichord soloist and director), which was praised as "a swaggering version... brilliantly played by Sorrell" (the SUNDAY TIMES, London). She has also released four discs of Mozart, and was hailed as "a near-perfect Mozartian" (FANFARE RECORD MAGAZINE). Other recordings include Handel's Messiah, the Monteverdi Vespers and three creative crossover projects: Come to the River - An Early American Gathering; Sacrum Mysterium - A Celtic Christmas Vespers; and Sugarloaf Mountain - An Appalachian Gathering.
Sorrell holds an Artist Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory, and honorary doctorate from Case Western University, two special awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on early American music, and an award from the American Musicological Society.
Nell Snaidas, guest co-director and soprano, is a leading proponent of Sephardic music today. "Snaidas' knowledge of Sephardic song as a living art... made even evergreen classics feel new" (THE CORNELL SUN). She was featured on CBC radio as one of the leading interpreters of Spanish Renaissance/Sephardic song alongside Montserrat Figueras and Victoria de los Angeles. She has been praised by the NEW YORK TIMES for her "beautiful soprano voice, melting passion" and "vocally ravishing" performances. Of Uruguayan-American descent, Ms. Snaidas is recognized for her specialization in historical performance practice, in particular the repertoire of Italy and Spain. Soon after graduation from the Mannes School of Music, she began to specialize in Ladino Song and continued her studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary with Kay Kaufman Shelemey. For many years she sang in the Gerard Edery Ensemble, led by Gerard Edery, winner of the Sephardic Heritage Award.
Favorite projects include her many appearances with the Boston Early Music Festival, singing with LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and recording the movie-soundtrack of The Producers with Mel Brooks in the booth. Ms. Snaidas has recorded for Sony Classical, Sono Luminus, Koch International and Naxos. In addition to serving as Spanish/Latin American language coach to many of the leading early music ensembles in the USA, Ms. Snaidas is the co-Artistic Director of GEMAS, a concert series in NYC devoted to Early Music of the Americas. Her latest recording "The Kingdoms of Castille" was nominated for Grammy in 2012. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Early Music America.
Karim Sulayman, tenor, is consistently praised for his "lyrical, expressive and appealing tenor" (WASHINGTON POST), and has been hailed as a "true revelation" (OPÉRA MAGAZINE). With a vast repertoire that spans from the Renaissance to Contemporary music, he has firmly established himself as a sophisticated and versatile artist. Mr. Sulayman recently completed three seasons at the Marlboro Music Festival and engagements at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Cité de la Musique, the Casals Festival, Aspen Music Festival and the International Bach Festival. His discography includes the title role in Handel's Acis and Galatea, and two releases for NAXOS in works of Philidor and Grétry, as well as forthcoming releases on the AVIE and Furious Artisans labels. He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Rice University and also studied improvisation at the Second City Training Center in Chicago.
Jeffrey Strauss, baritone, an "authoritative artist" (CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER) whose performances have been praised as "captivating" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE) and "serenely beautiful" (NEW YORK TIMES), grew up in the Jewish cantorial tradition, singing professionally as cantor soloist in the synagogue at the age of 16. He has appeared with period-instrument ensembles including The Consort of Musicke with Emma Kirkby, the Taverner Consort under Andrew Parrott, Tafelmusik, Apollo's Fire, the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), the Newberry Consort (Chicago), Seattle Baroque, and Tempesta di Mare (Philadelphia). He made his professional debut at the age of 17 with the Buffalo Philharmonic and studied voice in Paris with Gérard Souzay. An accomplished stage actor, his favorite projects have included the title role in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, praised as "deeply moving" (CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER), Jesus in the Bach Passions, Méphistophélès in Berlioz' Damnation of Faust, and Apollo in Handel's Apollo e Dafne.
His 2014 portrayal of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof was hailed by the BUFFALO NEWS as "masterful." Mr. Strauss's longstanding commitment to contemporary music includes many appearances with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, as well as performing Ned Rorem's song cycle Aftermath, a jazz-inspired oratorio with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and premieres of works by Bernstein, Babbitt, Shapey, and Cipullo. His CD recordings with Apollo's Fire include the Monteverdi Vespers and Handel's Messiah, as well as Sephardic Journey, to be released in February 2016. The Plain Dealer described his performance in Sephardic Journey: "Strauss delineated, with decorative elaboration worthy of a great cantor, the intense longing in the hearts of an exiled people to return to their homeland."
Rex Benincasa, percussion, is a world music specialist. As a drummer and percussionist, he has performed with ALBA Consort, Ensemble Caprice, The Bishop's Band, Seraphic Fire, The Sebastians, 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 among many others. Rex likes all kinds of music.
Tina Bergmann, hammered dulcimer, is recognized as one of North America's leading exponents of the instrument. A fourth-generation musician, she began playing music at age eight, learning the mountain dulcimer from her mother in the aural tradition. Pete Seeger has called her "the best hammered dulcimer player I've seen anywhere." She has been a featured performer with several symphony orchestras, and is in demand across the United States at festivals and workshops. She performs as a soloist; in a duo with bassist Bryan Thomas; and with her string band Hu$hmoney. She is featured on 11 albums, including five with Apollo's Fire.