Apollo's Fire presents Sugarloaf Mountain, An Appalachian Gathering: soprano Amanda Powell
Now a national CD bestseller! Jeannette Sorrell's musical evocation of the Celtic immigrant experience in the hills of Appalachia was hailed as "a triumph, an absolutely joyous achievement.” (ClevelandClassical.com.)
Long ago, the sparkling fiddle tunes and haunting ballads of the British Isles came across the water, taking root in the hills of Virginia. They mingled with Southern hymns and African spirituals - creating the soulful music we call Appalachian. The people of the mountains raise their communal voices in LOVE, SINGING, DANCING & PRAYER.
Through music, song and a bit of storytelling, “Sugarloaf Mountain” explores the joys and sorrows of daily life among the early settlers in Appalachia. Creator Jeannette Sorrell said, “The rich repertoire of renaissance English and Scottish ballads took on its own life in Appalachia during the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. As the old songs came across the water, they evolved into different versions reflecting the Appalachian psyche and experience. Likewise, the lively fiddle tunes of the British Isles appear in Appalachian sources in differing versions,” she said. “And then, these people encountered the African slaves and their spirituals. I think at that point, when the British Isles music met the influence of the spirituals, that’s when Appalachian music came fully into its own as a unique and distinctive repertoire.”
Sorrell and her colleagues follow the “journey” of these songs as they evolve from their British and Celtic roots into distinctly Appalachian versions. At the same time, the program follows the “journey” of the British and Celtic immigrants – mostly impoverished – who crossed the Atlantic and settled in the mountains to build new lives. Passing through love and loss, dancing and prayer, the music overflows in celebration as the people of the mountains raise their communal voices.
As with “Come to the River” and the equally popular “Celtic Christmas” crossover programs, Sorrell has built this program around the unique talents and personalities of the individuals involved. Performers include:
• Amanda Powell, soprano vocals – a young and brilliant early music artist who grew up singing Appalachian songs “loudly from the back of my grandpa’s pick-up truck in West Virginia,” as she describes. Powell was featured with AF in the national tour of “Come to the River.”
• Ross Hauck, tenor vocals – beloved by AF audiences for his performances in both Handel’s Messiah and Celtic folk programs. The grandson of a Southern preacher, he is deeply steeped in southern folk hymns and storytelling.
• Tina Bergmann, hammered dulcimer – a regular favorite with AF, Tina is widely regarded as the leading dulcimer player of North America. Peter Seeger called her “the best dulcimer player I’ve heard in my life.”
• Susanna Perry Gilmore, fiddle – studied violin performance and musicology at Oxford University in the UK, while also playing Celtic folk music in pubs with traditional Irish musicians. Though presently concertmaster of the Omaha Symphony, she grew up playing country fiddle.
The program also features AF favorites Kathie Stewart on wooden flutes and René Schiffer on cello, as well Brian Kay on lute, guitar and banjo.
The program includes historic/traditional Elizabethan/Appalachian ballads such as Twa Sisters (Two Sisters), British and Celtic fiddle tunes such as Farewell to Ireland, The Highlander’s Farewell, and Over the Isles to America; early American party/play songs such as A Frog He Went a-Courtin’; a set of virtuoso fiddle variations on Oh Susannah; early American Southern hymns; a couple of early Civil War songs; and spirituals such as Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.