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Apollo’s Fire presents ‘Sephardic Journey-Wanderings of the Spanish Jews’

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February 20 -25, 2014

Jeannette Sorrell, Music Director
Nell Snaidas, soprano & Co-Director
Karim Sulayman, tenor |Jeffrey Strauss, baritone
Rex Benincasa, percussion
Tina Bergmann, hammered dulcimer
Also featuring the acclaimed Apollo’s Singers

In the 1400’s in Spain, the Spanish Inquisition was at its height. It was a form of genocide and expulsion designed to make Spain a purely Catholic culture without the influences of Jews, Muslims and Protestants in their midst. The result was the execution of over 3,000 people of the Jewish faith and the expulsion of over 40,000, or around one half of the Jewish population. The remaining 40,000 opted for forced baptism and were carefully watched for signs of reverting back to their former faith.

Those who fled or were forced to leave at first settled in Portugal only to be forced from there. From there they traveled to North Africa and Italy gradually settling in major cities throughout Europe and North Africa as well as New Spain (Mexico) and North America.

It is from their travels that the Spanish Jews absorbed the musical traditions of the places they ended up at. The result was a music that was accented by the rhythms and notations of Italy, Turkey and North Africa (that included exotic percussion). This concert interweaves the Sephardic folk song with highlights from the Monteverdi-like Hebrew choral work of Salamone Rossi - the Songs of Solomon.

Created by Apollo’s Fire Music Director, Jeannette Sorrell and in collaboration with guest Co-Director Nell Snaidas, Sephardic Journey will be premiered in a series of five concerts in Northeast, Ohio including two performances at a The Temple – Tifereth Israel synagogue.

This musical program will trace the journey of the Sephardic Jews who, after flourishing in Spain up until the end of the 14th and 15th century were exiled across the Mediterranean and Middle East. The program will follow the format of previous AF offerings such as “A Celtic Christmas” by interweaving sacred early music with folk music of the period. For example, 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.

Sephardic Journey opens with a sequence called “Oh Jerusalem!” in which a traditional Sephardic chant of nostalgia for the homeland receives dramatic treatment. This will transition 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.

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.

LOCAL CONCERTS

Thursday, February 20, 2014
7:30 p.m.
Fairlawn Lutheran Church
3415 West Market Street
Fairlawn, OH 44333

Friday, February 21, 2014
8:00 p.m.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
2747 Fairmount Blvd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106

Saturday, February 22, 2014
8:00 p.m.*
The Temple – Tifereth Israel
2600 Shaker Blvd.
Beachwood, OH 44122

Sunday, February 23, 2014
4:00 p.m.
Rocky River Presbyterian Church
21750 Detroit Rd.
Rocky River, OH 44116

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
7:30 p.m.
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.

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.

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