Apollo’s Fire brings Baroque orchestral music to Vilar Performing Arts Center
If you go …
What: “A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse” with Apollo’s Fire, a Baroque orchestra.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.
Cost: $58 for adults, and $10 for students.
More information: Tickets are available now at the VPAC box office, by calling 970-845-8497 or at http://www.vilarpac.org.
BEAVER CREEK — “For 25 years I’ve been listening to people say, ‘Oh, I don’t like Baroque music,’” said Jeannette Sorrell, harpsichordist and conductor of Apollo’s Fire.
Oh yes, you do.
Never again even think classical music is boring. Never, if it’s done as brilliantly as Apollo’s Fire does it.
Apollo’s Fire adds some dance and theater to the show, and the next thing you know, you’re in the Baroque period, only with indoor plumbing.
Apollo’s Fire plays tonight at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
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“If we can get them to come just once, they’re hooked,” Sorrell said. “When people say they don’t like it, they’ve heard it played badly. Baroque music is exciting and alive.”
Apollo’s Fire has been changing minds and hearts for 2 1/2 decades.
“I had this vision that this music can speak to a much wider audience. The music is expressive and beautiful and can touch people from all walks of life,” Sorrell said.
She debunks the predetermined myths about Baroque music.
Apollo’s Fire is a collection of creative artists who share Sorrell’s passion for drama and rhetoric. “A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse,” the show that will be presented in Beaver Creek, balances a pair of Johann Sebastian Bach’s beloved Brandenburg Concertos with works by three of Bach’s contemporaries: Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann and George Frideric Handel.
“Baroque is alive. It’s also very personal,” Sorrell said.
Baroque composers work a crowd like a great orator, Sorrell said. You might compare Bach’s and other Baroque music to the brilliance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“He would use his voice to inspire, or a pause to keep them in suspense, or bring them down to a contemplative moment. That’s rhetoric,” Sorrell said.
Throughout 25 years, the group has flourished. They’ve played Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” hundreds of time, but it never gets old, Sorrell said.
“Every time, it’s a privilege, it’s a joy, it’s an adventure, and we throw ourselves into it 100 percent,” Sorrell said.
Fanning Apollo’s Fire
There’s not an aptitude test in our spiral arm of the universe which lists among its vocational choices, “Play harpsichord in a Baroque orchestra.”
But Sorrell knew what she wanted, so she created it.
Sorrell grew up in Denver and is a Colorado mountain girl.
“My heart and soul are in the mountains. If I had known Apollo’s Fire was going to take off like this, I would have started it in the Rocky Mountains,” she said.
She was 14 and her first job was playing piano for a church. In high school, she led a vocal and instrumental ensemble. While she was in high school, recordings of Baroque music played with period instruments became popular.
She knew at 17 what she wanted to do.
“It was more of a dream than a plan, but I was obsessed,” Sorrell said.
She landed a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council and put on professional concerts. They got great reviews.
When she finished her studies, she was 26. To no one’s surprise, there were no jobs for harpsichordists.
She was living on the prize money she’d won in an international contest, but knew it wouldn’t last.
She got calls from the Cleveland Orchestra because she was on a list of 15 up and coming conductors in the country. She had not applied for the job, but they called her anyway.
The other 14 had all applied for the job and had been rejected.
“We wondered why you didn’t apply,” they asked.
And so she did.
“What did I have to lose?” she said. “I have no money and no prospects for jobs.”
The maestro was German and did not ask her about music. They chatted about politics and life and he explained Cleveland might not be ready for a woman conductor, so he would not be asking her to rehearse with the orchestra.
The other 14 applicants were all men.
“Well,” Sorrell told the maestro, “I’m not really interested in conducting an orchestra.”
She talked for a few moments about what she really wanted to do. The administrator took her aside and explained he had always wanted a Baroque orchestra as part of their program, and asked if she’d be interested in starting one.
“I had no money and did not know anyone in Cleveland. But nine months later, Apollo’s Fire made its debut,” Sorrell said. “I figured I’d do this for a couple years and it would fizzle.”
Named for the classical god of music and the sun, Sorrell founded Apollo’s Fire in 1992.
The vision was an ensemble who loved the music and could evoke the various passions in the listeners.
They’re 16 performers: seven violins, two violas, two cellos, one bass, two flutes, one theorbo and one Sorrell, who plays the harpsichord and serves as the orchestra’s conductor.
Apollo’s Fire has released 21 commercial CDs, and currently records for the British label AVIE.
It’s now 25 years and in Sorrell’s gifted hands, Baroque music does not fizzle, it sizzles.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.