Apollo’s Fire (AF) is a class act. Jeannette Sorrell, who founded AF 20 years ago, has a thing going with it — and a sizable following both locally and internationally — through use of period/historic instruments and the presentation of the best and finest classical Baroque music.
Every once in a while the group expands its expected musical parameters. AF has developed an ensemble of crossover artists who specialize in early American and British Isles traditional repertioire, performing on historic instruments to be sure, but with the lively freedom of folk performers.
It is in that spirit that AF is presenting at various “countryside” venues its program, “Celtic Crossings: Songs and Stories of the Irish-American Experience,” with Irish storyteller Tomaseen Foley.
Forgoing its usual downtown Akron venue, AF appeared recently to a packed house at the rural setting of the Bath Road Church of Christ. The program is divided into two basic sections — part I concentrating on Ireland (through the amusing and nostalgic tales by Foley) and the British Isles (in poems by Scottish Robert Burns set to music as an example), and part II focusing on the Irish tradition in the United States (with songs ranging in style from the colonial period through contemporary).
Songs, stories and dance. That pretty much sums up the Irish experience, according to the very humorous Foley. Well, he would add “a wee whiff of the bottle,” and so would I.
Tenor Ross Hauck opened and closed the program with ”The Homes of Donegal.” Hauck looked the part — red hair and a lilting Irish tenor voice. He knows how to sell a song.
All the performers know their artistic gift. That’s clear at any AF concert. Brian Bigley is an emphatic Irish step-dancer with a clear, concise and highly articulate footsteps. Kathie Stewart is stalwart on the flute, flowing in and out of tunes with seeming abandon. Coulter, as the director, tended to set up the song, sliding into the character of the melody and letting the others join in at appropriate times. And Tina Bergmann managed to achieve nuance in passages that I frankly could not have imagined.
The music incorporated traditional pieces, evocative Irish poetry by Foley, and the continuance of Irish flair in American music and culture.
Audiences may well recognize some of the songs sung. Probably not all. That’s part of the fun of these concerts — reminiscing and learning.
“Celtic Crossing: Songs and Stories of the Irish-American Experience” with storyteller Tomaseen Foley, Apollo’s Fire, through June 17 at various area locations each day, beginning Friday at the Baroque Music Barn in Hunting Valley, 8 p.m. 800-314-2535 or www.apollosfire.org/concerts/countryside-concerts.html. Tickets are $17-$48 depending on the location.