Apollo’s Fire on a Sephardic journey

Arts / Article

Jeannette Sorrell, director of Apollo’s Fire, a Knight Arts grantee, just keeps getting more creative as she goes along. Known and renowned for their work in baroque period classical, sacred, and lay music, Apollo’s Fire has been known to take a few steps out of that era and combine it with the numinous stuff of social and cultural history.

Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire. Photo from www.colbertartists.com

For the upcoming concert to be held at Fairlawn Lutheran Church on Thursday, Apollo’s Fire will present “Sephardic Journeys: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews.” Sorrell is basing the concert in the work “Songs of Solomon” by Jewish baroque composer Salamone Rossi, a composer who worked alongside the famous Claudio Monteverdi in Milan. By night, however, as he went home to the Jewish ghetto, he composed his own music. Apollos’s Fire is bringing that heritage to our area.

Along with it, she will interweave a number of Jewish folk songs from the period when these people were exiled (actually expelled after a decress in 1492) from Spain, where they had been living and dispersed for centuries across both sides of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Sorrell has arranged most of the works, which encompass liturigical works and songs of feasting, mourning, celebration, and romance, as Sorrell has noted. A few pieces have been arranged by Nell Snaidas, guest co-director with Sorrell for this concert.

Nell Snaidas, Soprano. Photo by Ron Rinaldi

Nell Snaidas, Soprano. Photo by Ron Rinaldi

Snaidas, a gifted soprano, is touted as one of the leading proponents of Sepharidic music today. She is learned and steeped in the language spoken by Sepharidic Jews, Ladino, and is a specialist in that music. She, along with tenor Karim Sulayman and baritone Jeffrey Strauss, will present the array of historical music, while being supported by Rex Benincasa on exotic percussion and Tina Bergmann on hammered dulcimer and various lutes, oud, and strings that make up the orchestral component.

The concert is scheduled to be in six parts: I, “Oh, Jerusalem”; II, “The Temple”; III, “Love & Romance”; and after intermission IV, “Oh, Jerusalem”; V, “The Sabbath”; and, VI, “Feasting & Celebration.” Aside from Rossi’s “Songs of Solomon,” some works that you will hear in these sections are things that touch upon everyday life of the wanderers as they settled and lived in North Africa, Turkey and elsewhere.

There will be “Adon Olam (Lord of the Universe),” a poem for the end of the sabbath meal, as set to music by Apollo’s Fire frequent performer Rene Schiffer;  and “Adio querida (Farewell, My Beloved.”

“Sephardic Journeys” represents a change in programming for Apollo’s Fire, officials there have stated. The group has done crossover concerts like its Mediterranean song program and “A Celtic Christmas,” but nothing of this scope and ambition — not to mention what seems like a lot of work and preparation.

Apollo’s Fire’s “Sephardic Journeys will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 20 at Fairlawn Lutheran Church, 3415 W. Market St., Akron; 216-320-0012. For other appearances of this concert in the Cleveland area, go to www.apollosfire.org. Tickets start at $21 (free to students in the Akron area).