Fresh on the heels of a 6-concert winter tour of Bach concertos in Florida and Colorado, Apollo’s Fire and Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell now return to the road with an 8-concert tour of Sorrell’s much-acclaimed early Appalachian program, Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Gathering.
Recent Activities. Apollo’s Fire and Jeannette Sorrell, have had a triumphant two years, including three CD releases that all debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Classical Chart in 2016, as well as sold-out debut concerts at the Tanglewood Festival, the BBC Proms (London), the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), and the Tuscan Landscapes Festival (San Quirico, Italy); followed by sold-out concerts in 2016 at the Library of Congress, Boston’s First Church Cambridge, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) in December. A highlight of 2016 spring was Sorrell’s distinctive and dramatic production of Bach’s St John Passion, which won high praise from the New York Times, Musical America, Classical Voice North America, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The CD recording of this production is being released this month.
Sugarloaf Mountain – The Program.
Created and directed by Jeannette Sorrell, creator of Apollo’s Fire’s previous crossover programs Come to the River – An Early American Gathering (Billboard Classical #9, 2011); Sacrum Mysterium- A Celtic Christmas Vespers (Billboard Classical #11, 2012); Sugarloaf Mountain – An Appalachian Gathering (Billboard Classical #5, 2015); and Sephardic Journey – Wanderings of the Spanish Jews (Billboard World Music Chart #2 and Billboard Classical #5, Feb. 2016).
Long ago, the sparkling fiddle tunes and haunting ballads of the British Isles
came across the water, taking root in the hills of Virginia.
They mingled with Southern hymns and African spirituals –
creating the soulful music we call Appalachian.
The people of the mountains raise their voices in celebration of daily life –
LOVE, SINGING, DANCING AND PRAYER.
Sugarloaf Mountain takes its title from the mountain of that name that exists in Scotland, Ireland, and Maryland near the Appalachian trail. Jeannette Sorrell and her colleagues traverse the joys and sorrows of daily life among the early settlers in Appalachia – following the journeys of the impoverished British and Celtic immigrants who crossed the Atlantic and settled in the mountains to build new lives. At the same time, the program explores the evolution of Appalachian music, from its Celtic roots to its later Southern American and African-American influences. Passing through love and loss, dancing and prayer, the music overflows in celebration as the people of the mountains raise their voices.
Creator Jeannette Sorrell won awards from the American Musicological Society and the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on the reconstruction of early American music. She spent her teenage years in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, within sight of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. This was when she discovered Appalachian music and shape-note hymns, and fell in love with them.
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. 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.”
The CD of this program debuted at #5 on the Billboard Classical Crossover chart in June 2015.
A Unique Troupe. Sorrell built this program around the unique talents and personalities of the individuals involved. The eight performers include:
- Amanda Powell, soprano vocals – a brilliant young 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.
- Ross Hauck, tenor vocals – a leading tenor on today’s baroque scene, he is the grandson of a Southern preacher, and is deeply steeped in southern folk hymns and storytelling.
- Tina Bergmann, hammered dulcimer – 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.
The program includes historic/traditional Elizabethan/Appalachian ballads such as Twa Sisters (Two Sisters), 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’; a set of virtuoso fiddle variations on Oh Susannah; early American Southern hymns; a couple of early Civil War songs; and spirituals such as Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.
Apollo’s Fire’s national tour projects are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Tickets starting at $25
APOLLO’S FIRE CROSSOVER/FOLK TRADITION:
For over 17 years, Apollo’s Fire and Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell have developed a unique ensemble of crossover artists who specialize in early traditional folk repertoire. Performing 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. They revive the “crossover” spirit of the 17th century – a time when great composers regularly wrote artful variations on street tunes and tavern songs.
Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire have won numerous distinctions for their pioneering work. Sorrell’s premiere early American program, titled “Spirit of ’96,” received the Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society for reconstructions of early American compositions and arrangements of Ohio folk songs. In 2008, Sorrell was awarded a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to research and create “Come to the River: An Early American Gathering,” which 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 Billboard classical chart. In 2012, Sorrell collaborated with Sylvain Bergeron and Meredith Hall to create “Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers” which has performed to sold-out crowds at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as in Northeast Ohio. This program was released on CD in 2013 and debuted at No. 11 on Billboard.
In 2014, Sorrell created “Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Gathering” which was released on CD in 2015 and debuted at No. 5 on Billboard. Winning rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, the CD was praised as “music that asks questions about life and death, and bores into the American national psyche at visceral and emotional levels… profoundly spontaneous” (Gramophone). In 2014, Sorrell collaborated with Sephardic specialist Nell Snaidas to create “Sephardic Journey: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews.” This was released on CD in 2016 and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard World Music chart, praised as “revelatory and first-class” (BBC Music Magazine).
JEANNETTE SORRELL - ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Hailed as “one of the world’s finest Baroque specialists” (St Louis Dispatch), 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 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.
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 BBC Proms and London’s Wigmore Hall, Madrid’s Royal Theatre (Teatro Real), the Grand Théâtre de l’Opéra in Bordeaux, the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), the Tanglewood Festival, Boston’s Early Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Library of Congress, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), among others.
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 appeared as conductor or conductor/soloist with the New World Symphony (Miami), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, Utah 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 5 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 2017 she returns to Utah Symphony and makes her debut with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Grand Teton Festival, and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. In January 2017, Sorrell became the first baroque specialist to join the conducting roster of Columbia Artists Management (CAMI).
Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire have released 24 commercial CDs, of which seven 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 four creative crossover projects: Come to the River – An Early American Gathering (Billboard Classical #9, 2011); Sacrum Mysterium- A Celtic Christmas Vespers (Billboard Classical #11, 2012); Sugarloaf Mountain – An Appalachian Gathering (Billboard Classical #5, 2015); and Sephardic Journey – Wanderings of the Spanish Jews (Billboard World Music Chart #2 and Billboard Classical #5, Feb. 2016).
Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for creative programming. She 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. Passionate about guiding the next generation of performers, Ms. Sorrell has led many baroque projects for students at Oberlin Conservatory.
She spent her teenage years in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, within sight of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. This was when she discovered Appalachian music and shape-note hymns, and fell in love with them.