Although Apollo’s Fire is primarily known for their playing of traditional baroque music using old style instruments, sometimes they step out of their genre to give a very pleasant surprise. Last year it was Celtic Crossings with a collection of traditional Irish songs, stories and dance, this year they once more explore the music of early America when this area was considered “The Wilderness”.
“Come to the River” is Apollo Fire’s newest national touring show which has them traveling from Painesville, Ohio to Los Angeles, California via Sandusky, Ohio, Gainesville, Florida and Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It was originally produced for performance and CD in 2011. It is my hope that they will put this show in their regular repertoire of musical masterpieces and perform it more often. As all those familiar with Apollo's Fire, whenever they take on a musical project, they do it with the finest attention to detail, and so it is with "Come to the River".
The show is a journey through time and follows the life of four pioneers. There’s Johnnie (sung by Ross Hauck) who is madly in love with Eliza Jane (sung by Amanda Powell) whose attention to Johnnie wanders from time to time, Eliza Jane’s sister (sung by Molly Quinn) who is madly in love with Johnnie and their uncle the Reverend James McGready (sung by Paul Shipper) who also plays the preacher and doubles on Guitar and Banjo.
Along with the Guitar and Banjo is Tina Bergmann on Hammered Dulcimer, Oliver Brault on violin, René Schiffer on cello, Cathie Stewart on wooden flute and pennywhistle and Jeannette Sorrell on Harpsichord. What makes this performance an absolute delight is that a selection of simple Appalachian and Pioneer songs are sung and played by virtuoso performers who take it to concert hall levels.
The story begins with an Appalachian Barn Dance with old time fiddle tunes, Irish ballads and Southern traditional songs. From there the family takes to the road in their wagon with music and singing on the way. The trip hits a bump when Johnnie gets mad at Wild Bill Jones for trying to move in on his girl, Eliza Jane, and upon shooting Wild Bill Jones dead is convicted and imprisoned for twenty years. After serving his time, Johnnie finds the Reverend McGready and is reunited with Eliza Jane and upon seeing the error of his ways comes back into the fold. It is an evening of gentle lovely music from a simpler time and along with the traditional songs there is a selection of Shape-Note Hymns that are a wonder.
Those familiar with the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” will immediately recognize two of the traditional songs, the haunting lullaby “Nobody but the Baby” and the finale, “Down to the River to Pray” where the audience was asked to join in. Safe to say, the show ended with a rousing standing ovation and as the players and singers exited up the aisle, a group of Lake Erie College students gathered in front of the stage for an impromptu singing of “Down to the River to Pray”. It really was a perfect end to a perfect evening.
In case you missed the show and are not planning on flying out to PA or LA in the next few days, fear not. The entire show is on CD. In 2011, Apollo’s Fire released Come to the River internationally on the British label, AVIE. The CD catapulted to the Top 10 Billboard Chart in July of 2011 coinciding with AF’s national tour of the performance. This award-winning CD is available for sale at all performances, by phone (216-320-0012 x 1) or online www.apollosfire.org.
Upon returning Apollo’s Fire will be performing “The Intimate Bach, Part II” at:
Thursday, March 14
Fairlawn Lutheran Church
Friday, March 15 & 16
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, March 17
Rocky River Presbyterian Church
To purchase tickets you can call 216.320.0012 / 800.314.2535, ex. 1 or go to: http://apollosfire.org/concerts/tickettemp.html