Review: Apollo’s Fire @ Cain Park 6/25/10

Apollo’s Fire, Cleveland’s Baroque Orchestra, offered a slightly re-arranged version of last year’s popular “Come to the River” program on a perfect summer evening at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights. The ensemble, led by Jeannette Sorrell, traditionally performs in more enclosed spaces than the semi-open amphitheater at the park, so the question of the night was “Can they do it? How will they sound amplified?” and “Can we even see them?”

The answers are “Of course,” “Not too bad,” and “Yes, pretty much.” The program, one that turned on the concept of an early American community, featured musical memories introduced by Sorrell who described her joyful feelings as a young teen when she first encountered Appalachia and its churches, barn dances, and fiddlers. Later the ensemble offered a re-creation of wagon travel in the old days (“Are we there yet, Mother?”) and a revival meeting (which was pretty tame–no hellfire and brimstone in sight–but very musical). Vocalists Sandra Simon, Abigail Haynes Lennox, Scott Mello, and Paul Shipper joined with Tina Bergmann (playing the hammered dulcimer), Sorrell (harpsichord), Rachel Jones (violin), Kathie Stewart (wooden flute and penny whistle) and Rene Schiffer (cello) plus dancers Matthew Olwell and Emily Oleson (percussive dancers–lots of toe-tapping) to show the large and enthusiastic crowd an evening of what the “good old days” might have been like.

The only thing I missed were the congregational echoes that an enclosed space produces when the program concluded with a sing-along of “Down in the River to Pray.” In a word: Apollo’s Fire offered a lovely American scrapbook filled with folk songs and tales (and spiced with a sprinkling of very old, but still funny, jokes).

Laura Kennelly is a freelance arts journalist, a member of the Music Critics Association of North America, and an associate editor of BACH, a scholarly journal devoted to J. S. Bach and his circle.

Listening to and learning more about music has been a life-long passion. She knows there’s no better place to do that than the Cleveland area.

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