Apollo's Fire to perform May 3

The period-instrument ensemble comes in connection with music department residency program.

by Annie Phifer | 5/12/17 11:24am

This week, Dartmouth welcomes renowned music ensemble Apollo’s Fire in partnership with the Hopkins Center as part of the music department residency program. During their time at the College, the ensemble will interact with various members of the Dartmouth community and will perform a concert, “A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse,” tonight.

Founded in 1992 by harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire is a period-instrument ensemble that specializes in early music. Their concert will feature works by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Philipp Telemann and Antonie Vivaldi.

“Apollo’s Fire is dedicated and devoted to forming what we call early music, which is music from the Renaissance to Baroque period,” said Margaret Lawrence, Hop director of programming.

The ensemble plays instruments different than those typically used by today’s composers.

Camilla Tassi ’18, who is pursuing a master’s in digital music, admired that Apollo’s Fire has experienced continued success for 25 years.

“Clearly they have found a successful formula,” Tassi said. “There are a lot of early music groups out there, but they’ve been able to distinguish themselves.”

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Apollo’s Fire has garnered an international following, thanks to the passion and zest evident in the ensemble’s performances.

“What sets Apollo’s Fire apart is this really brilliant genius that they have for transmitting [early music] in a way that’s compelling and fun,” Lawrence said.

It is exactly this engaging atmosphere that Apollo’s Fire strives to capture in their upcoming concert, inspired by the 18th century coffeehouses in which Bach played many of his works. Lawrence described these coffeehouses as a combination of “a Starbucks, a nightclub and a creative economy-generating office space, where everyone was working on stuff together and talking politics.”

Coffeehouses were the main social scene, Lawrence said, because coffee was an “incredibly powerful social connector.”

The social setting of coffeehouses made the arts more widely accessible, and Apollo’s Fire similarly strives to increase accessibility during their time at Dartmouth. The ensemble will visit classes within the music department, join students in North Park and South Houses for a dinner discussion and meet with students to talk about entrepreneurship in the arts.

Music professor Matthew Marsit highlighted the benefits students would receive from personal interactions with Apollo’s Fire.

“The opportunity to meet the artists and to understand a little about their careers and their career paths, seeing firsthand the passion that they have for the music that they’re making and why they’re excited about sharing it with an audience, creates an electricity and an excitement in any audience member,” Marsit said.

Tassi said that since there are no full-time faculty members at the College who specialize in early music, the opportunity for students to personally connect with the members of Apollo’s Fire will open their eyes to the importance of initiative in the arts and to early music performed at such an advanced level.

Marsit also commented on the example Apollo’s Fire serves as for arts entrepreneurship.

“What makes this group special is that these are people who have made their career as independent artists, so they’re not part of a large orchestra, with a salary and a contracted position,” he said. “They’re truly creating their own career path and funding their own salary. And in 2017, that takes creativity and marketing skill.”

Apollo’s Fire also has the opportunity to learn from its interactions with Dartmouth students, Tassi said. This week, the members of the ensemble will visit a sound-arts class, which involves combining naturally-occurring and manmade sounds.

“I think [Apollo’s Fire] will also really appreciate coming in contact with some of that information and seeing how their practice fits into these newer practices,” Tassi said.

It is this commitment to collaboration and to making early music accessible across wide audiences that truly sets Apollo’s Fire apart from other ensembles.

“Imagine what you would have heard in a coffeehouse,” Lawrence said. “I think [this concert] is a great way to take a little voyage into a different time and place.”

Apollo’s Fire will perform in concert May 3 at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. A discussion with the artists will immediately follow the performance.