Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers

ON TOUR DECEMBER 2019

Apollo’s Fire | Jeannette Sorrell, conducting
Meredith Hall, soprano
Steve Player, baroque guitar/dancer
with Ensemble La Nef of Montreal
Sylvain Bergeron, director/archlute

The groundbreaking new program that took Northeast Ohio by storm in 12 sold-out performances in the last two years! Jeannette Sorrell’s celebration of Celtic artistic traditions interweaves renaissance choral music with ancient pagan carols, folk dances and joyous fiddle tunes. A colorful band of bagpipes, flutes, strings and Celtic harp joins the exquisite Apollo’s Singers.

Chosen by BBC Magazine as one of the “Top 20 Concerts in North America,” 2012 & 2014!

“A grand holiday stew made from deliciously blended sacred and secular ingredients… Sorrell’s brainstorm embraces Celtic sources rooted both in church and countryside, with excerpts from a 13th-century service surrounded by hymns, carols, folk tunes and dances… An affecting and exuberant gathering. From utter simplicity to heartfelt passion… Meredith Hall wraps her limpid soprano around every crucial word. As always, Sorrell has paid scrupulous attention to detail in shaping an experience in musical and theatrical terms.”
– THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 2011

MORE REVIEWS

Sacrum Mysterium

CD/DVD debuted at no. 11, Billboard Classical Chart (December 2013)

“A mixture of passion and reverence… If there’s one Christmas CD I’d be asking Santa for, this would be it.”
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW (UK)

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  • MEREDITH HALL
    MEREDITH HALL
    soprano
  • JEANNETTE SORRELL
    JEANNETTE SORRELL
    conductor
  • SYLVAIN BERGERON
    SYLVAIN BERGERON
    guest director & archlute
  • STEVEN PLAYER
    STEVEN PLAYER
    guitar & dancer

“The U.S.A.’s hottest baroque band.” –CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE (UK)

MEREDITH HALL
soprano

Canadian Soprano Meredith Hall delights audiences internationally with her “lustrous sound and fluent legato” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “bravura musical performance matched by a riveting [sense of the] dramatic” (Boston Globe). Equally at home in Opera and Oratorio, she is especially in demand for Baroque and Classical works, particularly those of Mozart and Handel.

Recent and upcoming performances include the Leipzig Bachfest with the Ottawa Bach Choir, Handel’s Messiah for the Grand Philharmonic Choir (Kitchener Waterloo), Guelph Chamber Choir, Toledo Symphony, and Amadeus Choir, Elgar’s The Apostles for Pax Christie Chorale of Toronto, “A Celtic Christmas” programme for Apollo’s Fire in Cleveland and New York. Other engagements include appearances for St. Paul’s Lyra Baroque Orchestra singing Mozart and Haydn, Bach’s Johannes Passion with the Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival, his B Minor Mass with the Amadeus Choir of Toronto, Matthäus Passion with the Grand Philharmonic Choir of Kitchener Waterloo, Hippolyte et Aricie for VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert, and Messiahs for Symphony Nova Scotia and the Newfoundland Symphony. She has also been featured by Music and Beyond in Ottawa and for the Sweetwater Festival in Ontario.

Past highlights include performances at the Göttingen Handel Festival in Germany, Messiah with the Toronto Symphony, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, Victoria Symphony, Memphis Symphony, and a Handel programme for the Grand Rapids Symphony. Also on her schedule were performances with the Arizona Chamber Music Festival in Tucson and the Hot Earth Ensemble of Newfoundland. Ms. Hall has been heard in San Francisco in Rameau’s Pygmalion and Arne’s Comus with Philharmonia Baroque, toured Canada’s west coast with La Nef, starred as Dido in Dido and Aeneas for Apollo’s Fire and debuted with Boston Baroque in Rameau’s Pygmalion. Also on her schedule were, Purcell’s The Indian Queen for the Toronto Masque Theatre and concerts with the Montreal Baroque Festival, in Halle, Germany at the Handel Festival and recording projects with La Nef for CBC Radio Canada and with Toronto Masque Theatre for CBC Radio Two.

Ms. Hall appeared at the Shannon International Music Festival for Beethoven’s Irish and Scottish songs with Nicholas McGegan at the piano as well an all Mozart programme. She was heard at the Montreal Baroque Festival and at Domaine Forget in a programme with the Toronto Consort, in Memphis for Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Tucson for the Arizona Chamber Music Festival and Toronto with Pax Christi Chorale for Mendelssohn’s St. Paul. Of particular note was her recital debut in Toronto for the Women’s Musical Club with guitarist Bernard Farley.

Further credits include the title role in Rameau’s Zephyr for McGegan’s Philharmonia Baroque, a Baroque evening for the Windsor Symphony, Bach’s Johannes Passion for Orchestra London and the Toronto Operetta Theatre production of the zarzuela El barberillo de Lavapiés. She was also heard as Aristeo in Rossi’s Orfeo for the Toronto Consort and was featured in a Handel programme for I Musici de Montreal.

The Newfoundland native has sung the title roles of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (Houston Grand Opera and Opera Atelier, Toronto) and Handel’s Partenope (Göttingen Handel Festival, Germany) as well as Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Opera Atelier, Toronto) and Phébé in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux (Opera in Concert, Toronto). Other Handel roles include: Semele (Handel & Haydn Society, Boston); Pleasure in The Choice of Hercules (Philharmonia Baroque, San Francisco) and Mary Magdelene in Resurrezione (Opera Atelier). In Mozart roles, Ms. Hall has appeared as Zerlina in Don Giovanni at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Bastienne in Bastien und Bastienne with Tafelmusik in Toronto and as Elvira in Don Giovanni for Opera Atelier’s tour of Japan. Her performances as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro with the same company were received with great acclaim in Toronto and Tokyo. Previous operatic engagements have included Giunone in Cavalli’s Ercole amante in Utrecht, Tanglewood and Boston; Eurydice in Gluck’s Orfeo for Cleveland Opera; Galatea in Handel’s Acis and Galatea for Opera Atelier; Dido in Dido and Aeneas for Apollo’s Fire (Cleveland); Messagiera in Monteverdi’s Orfeo for Vancouver Early Music; and Altisidore in Boismortier’s Don Quichotte for Paris’ Opera Comique.

Concert appearances include Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Arcadia Chamber Orchestra in Osaka, Japan; Handel’s Gloria with Pittsburgh’s Chatham Baroque; Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Handel’s Dixit Dominus with Le grand Choeur de Montreal; Bach’s Mass in B Minor for the St. Lawrence Choir of Montreal and his Missa Brevis for the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Ms. Hall toured Japan appearing in a series of song recitals in Osaka and Tokyo with her husband, guitarist Bernard Farley. For Toronto Operetta Theatre she performed the role of Nanine in the Canadian premiere of The Widow by Calixa Lavallee.

She has recorded several albums on the ATMA label with the early music ensemble La Nef, including Songs of Robbie Burns, Oikan ayns Bethlehem and the Battle of Killiecranckie and her latest CD with Apollo’s Fire is Sacrum Mysterium. In release are discs for Deutsche Grammophon Archiv, Philips, Naxos (Rameau’s Castor et Pollux and Purcell’s The Tempest), Dorian, NPR Records and CBC Records with such groups as Les Musiciens du Louvre, Le Concert Spirituel, Opera in Concert/Aradia, The Musicians of the Globe, The Toronto Consort and Tafelmusik. Ms. Hall can also be heard in the title role in a recording of Handel’s Partenope with the Internationale Händel-Festspiele Göttingen, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.

WEBSITE

JEANNETTE SORRELL
conductor

“Under the inspired leadership of Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire has become one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles, causing one to hear baroque material anew.”
–THE INDEPENDENT, London

Jeannette Sorrell is recognized internationally as one of today’s most creative early-music conductors. She has been credited by the UK’s BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE for forging “a vibrant, life-affirming approach to the re-making of early music… a seductive vision of musical authenticity.”

Hailed as “one of the world’s finest Baroque specialists” (ST. LOUIS DISPATCH), Sorrell was one of the youngest students ever accepted to the prestigious conducting courses of the Aspen and the Tanglewood music festivals.  She studied conducting under Robert Spano, Roger Norrington and Leonard Bernstein, and harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. She won both First Prize and the Audience Choice Award in the 1991 Spivey International Harpsichord Competition, competing against over 70 harpsichordists from Europe, Israel, the U.S., and the Soviet Union.

Sorrell founded Apollo’s Fire in 1992. Since then, she and the ensemble have built one of the largest audiences of any baroque orchestra in North America. She has led AF in sold-out concerts at London’s BBC Proms and London’s Wigmore Hall, Madrid’s Royal Theatre (Teatro Real), the Grand Théâtre de l’Opéra in Bordeaux, the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), the Tanglewood Festival, Boston’s Early Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Library of Congress, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), among others.

As a guest conductor, Sorrell has worked with many of the leading American symphony orchestras and is represented by Columbia Artists Management (CAMI). In December she will make her Kennedy Center debut conducting the National Symphony in performances of Handel’s Messiah. Her 2013 debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as conductor and soloist in the complete Brandenburg Concertos was met with standing ovations every night, and hailed as “an especially joyous occasion” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW). The same occurred with her recent debut with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where the TWIN CITIES PIONEER PRESS wrote, “Other masters of the [baroque] style have been paying visits, but none has summoned up as much energy, enthusiasm and excitement from the orchestra as Sorrell.” She has also appeared as conductor or conductor/soloist with the New World Symphony (Miami), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, Utah Symphony, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis with the St. Louis Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), and has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra as guest keyboard artist. In 2014 Ms. Sorrell filled in for British conductor Richard Egarr on 5 days’ notice, leading the complete Brandenburg Concertos and playing the harpsichord solo in Brandenburg no. 5, for the closing concert of the Houston Early Music Festival. This summer she returns to Utah Symphony and makes her debut with Grand Teton Festival.

Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire have released 25 commercial CDs, of which seven have been bestsellers on the Billboard classical chart. Her recordings include the complete Brandenburg Concerti and harpsichord concerti of Bach (with Sorrell as harpsichord soloist and director), which was praised by the LONDON TIMES as “a swaggering version… brilliantly played by Sorrell.” She has also released four discs of Mozart, and was hailed as “a near-perfect Mozartian” by FANFARE RECORD MAGAZINE.  Other recordings include Handel’s Messiah, the Monteverdi Vespers and four creative crossover projects: Come to the River – An Early American Gathering (Billboard Classical #9, 2011); Sacrum Mysterium – A Celtic Christmas Vespers (Billboard Classical #11, 2012); Sugarloaf Mountain – An Appalachian Gathering (Billboard Classical #5, 2015); and Sephardic Journey – Wanderings of the Spanish Jews (Billboard World Music Chart #2 and Billboard Classical #5, Feb. 2016).

Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for creative programming.  She holds an Artist Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory, and honorary doctorate from Case Western University, two special awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on early American music, and an award from the American Musicological Society, and two different awards from the Cleveland Arts Prize. Passionate about guiding the next generation of performers, Ms. Sorrell has led many baroque projects for students at Oberlin Conservatory and is a frequent guest coach at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She is the architect of AF’s highly successful Young Artist Apprentice Program, which has produced the majority of the leading young baroque professionals in the country today.

WEBSITE

SYLVAIN BERGERON
guest director & archlute

is a native of Quebec City. He gained expertise on instruments of the lute family through studies with Paul O’Dette and Eugène Dombois, among others. In 1984, he was a finalist at Toronto’s First International Lute Competition, and was a member of Ensemble Anonymus from 1980 to 1990. He co-founded La Nef in 1991, and has been at the helm of many productions such as Perceval, The Quest for the Holy Grail, The Garden of Delights, and Music for Joan the Mad. In demand as a performer of both lute and theorbo, Mr. Bergeron gives more than sixty concerts each season with renowned early music ensembles and orchestras. He has performed and recorded with such artists as Emma Kirkby, Jordi Savall, David Daniels, Daniel Taylor, Suzie LeBlanc, Christine Brandes, Agnès Melon, Meredith Hall, Anne Azéma and Patrizia Bovi. He has played under the direction of well-known conductors and performed in concert halls throughout North America and Europe. Sylvain Bergeron teaches lute, baroque guitar and continuo at McGill University and Université de Montréal. He was recently invited to represent Canada at the ninth Festival des Cordes Pincées (Plucked Strings) in Rabat, Morocco.

STEVEN PLAYER
guitar & dancer

has for the past twenty years studied and performed dances of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. He also plays baroque guitar and studied lute at the Royal College of Music in London. This combination of performing as both dancer and musician has made him popular with leading early music ensembles in Europe, where he works regularly with The Harp Consort, Akademie for Alte Musik Berlin, The Balthasaar Neumann Ensemble and the trio Los Otros. He also performs in the Americas, Australia, and Japan. He has taught dance to music students throughout Europe, choreographed for TV and Opera, and acted and performed Commedia dell’Arte. He has been a favorite with Apollo’s Fire audiences for over 10 years, particularly in the holiday program “Sacrum Mysterium – A Celtic Christmas.” Mr. Player enjoys combining the disciplines of art and historical research, while living in the 21st century.