Apollo's Fire presents "Sephardic Journey": Nell Snaides, soprano

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Apollo’s Fire presents "Sephardic Journey: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews"

February 4-7, 2016

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

Back by popular demand - Apollo's Fire reprises its latest creative crossover program by Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell, in collaboration with guest co-director Nell Snaidas.  “Sephardic Journey: Wanderings of the Spanish Jews” premiered in five sold-out concerts in February 2014.  The program will be performed during February 4-7 at several venues, including an important debut at the new Maltz Performing Arts Center of Case Western Reserve University. The performances will coincide with a highly anticipated release of the program on CD, for British record label AVIE.

Cast out of Jerusalem, cast out of Spain. The Spanish Jews in their travels absorbed the colorful musical accents of Italy, Turkey and North Africa, including exotic percussion.  This musical journey interweaves Sephardic folk song with highlights from the Monteverdi-like Hebrew choral work of Salamone Rossi - the Songs of Solomon. The daily rhythms of life and love meet the mystical prayers of Shabbat.


The program follows the musical journey of the Sephardic Jews, who flourished in Spain during the 14th century and were then exiled and dispersed across the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  In the tradition of Sorrell’s previous crossover programs such as Sacrum Mysterium - A Celtic Christmas (now a best-selling CD), this new program interweaves sacred early music with the folk music of the period.  In this case, sacred Hebrew chant and 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.

Salamone Rossi was a fascinating composer.  Living in Mantua, Italy, in the early 17th century, he worked at the Duke's palace alongside the great Monteverdi.  But at night, at his home in the Jewish ghetto, he composed the Songs of Solomon - a large choral work in baroque style with Hebrew text - for his own people.

Sephardic Journey unfolds from an opening sequence called “Oh Jerusalem!” in which a traditional Sephardic chant of nostalgia for the homeland receives dramatic treatment.  Other sets are called “The Temple” (featuring sacred Hebrew Medieval chant, as well as Salamone Rossi's splendid settings of these texts in early 17th-century Italian baroque style); “Love and Romance” (featuring Ladino songs); “The Sabbath” (including the beloved prayer “Tzur Mishelo”); and “Feasting and Celebration” (including delightful songs about food, with driving percussion in Middle-eastern rhythms).

The program is led by Jeannette Sorrell and features vocal soloists Nell Snaidas (soprano), Jeffrey Strauss (baritone) and Karim Sulayman (tenor).  Snaidas is a Sephardic specialist and Strauss grew up in the Hebrew cantorial tradition.  The colorful ensemble includes lutes, oud, shawm, wooden flute, harp, strings, and favorite guest Rex Benincasa on exotic percussion, as well as local favorite Tina Bergmann on hammered dulcimer, and the acclaimed Apollo’s Singers.


Thursday, February 4, 7:30 PM                                                  
Fairlawn Lutheran Church
3415 West Market Street
Fairlawn, OH 44333

Friday, February 5, 8:00 PM                               
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
2747 Fairmount Blvd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106

Saturday, February 6, 8:00PM                                                   
Maltz Performing Arts Center
Case Western Reserve University (University Circle)
1855 Ansel Road (at E. 105th St.)
Cleveland, OH 44106

Sunday, February 7, 4:00PM 
Gamble Auditorium, Baldwin Wallace University
 96 Front Street
Berea, OH 44017


Debut at the Maltz Performing Arts Center, Case Western Reserve University

The Saturday, February 6 performance will mark Apollo’s Fire’s debut at Case Western Reserve University’s Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple-Tifereth Israel.  This will be the first public professional concert to happen at the Maltz Performing Arts Center since the inaugural "Violins of Hope Cleveland" concert on September 27, 2015.  The venue is a renowned historic synagogue, formerly known as The Temple-Tifereth Israel.  Lovingly restored by Case Western Reserve over the past two years, the concert hall, named in honor of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, seats approximately 1000 and features a gorgeous mix of old and new, restoration and imagination, evoking the building’s heritage as a synagogue.  Located in University Circle off East 105th Street, the Maltz Performing Arts Center features ample parking.

Apollo’s Fire welcomes Early Music America to this concert on February 6.  EMA is holding their semi-annual national meeting in Cleveland during this weekend, and the February 6 concert is an official event of the conference.  The national board members as well as many regional members will be in attendance.



These concerts are presented in celebration of the international CD release of Sephardic Journey, on British label Avie.   This release comes on the heels of two strikingly successful CD releases by Apollo’s Fire in 2015:  Jeannette Sorrell’s creative crossover program Sugarloaf Mountain – An Appalachian Gathering was released in June 2015 (coinciding with concerts including Cain Park in Cleveland Heights) and debuted at #5 on the Billboard Classical Crossover chart, receiving a rave review in Gramophone Magazine.  A disc of Handel arias called “The Power of Love,” featuring soprano Amanda Forsythe, was released in November (coinciding with a U.S. tour of the program).  This CD debuted at #3 on the Billboard Classical chart and also received rave reviews including Classics Today.  The Sephardic Journey CD will be available for purchase at the concerts and musicians will be autographing CDs following each concert.

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