Apollo’s Fire to spark interest in Protestant history

Apollo’s Fire brings a musical story on Protestant church history to the Amphitheater tonight.

Cast of Apollo’s Fire. Submitted photo.



Emma Morehart | Staff Writer

The members of Apollo’s Fire bowed to the audience’s applause after their performance at Chautauqua in 2007, but this year’s performance of “Come to the River” may yield even better results.

“This program is really special for Chautauqua in particular because Chautauqua has this long tradition of focusing on Protestant church history and the different ideals that have been discussed,” said Jeannette Sorrell, the founder of Apollo’s Fire.

At 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, the performers will gather again to give a concert complete with a mixture of singing, acting and instrumental music.

Of the 11 performers, six are singers and five are instrumentalists. The music includes folk, baroque and old-time music, and the instruments include a hammered dulcimer, fiddle, harpsichord, wooden flute, cello, guitar and banjo.

“This show is pretty unique,” said Tina Bergmann, who plays the hammered dulcimer and sings in the show. “It’s unusual; it’s both old-time music and really different instruments you would not find in an old-time band for sure. It’s its own animal.”

A story line about a 19th-century preacher’s journey drives the performance. The plot, which is written by Sorrell and is loosely based on historical figures, follows a preacher’s journey with his family from Pennsylvania to Kentucky.

The show begins with ballads and barn dances and ends with American Protestant revival-themed music as one of the characters murders a man, spends 20 years in prison, finds faith in Jesus and changes his life.

“I feel really akin to what Jeannette does, putting story and drama first, and not just making pretty sounds,” said Ross Hauck, a guest artist in Apollo’s Fire and the character who finds his faith.

Many of the musicians in Apollo’s Fire joined the group with varying backgrounds, interests and musical styles. Trained in old-time music, Bergmann prefers to memorize her music, even though she only has two weeks to do so before the first show. Hauck was classically trained in piano and cello for years and then switched to studying voice in college.

“There’s a virtuosity,” Hauck said. “Every musician on stage comes with years and years of experience and training. … We’re tight as a unit.”

Hauck said there is a feeling of professionalism combined with the sense of immediacy that comes with folk music.

Apollo’s Fire is a Cleveland-based orchestra that Sorrell formed in 1992 when she saw a need for a group that was dedicated to baroque music. Because the ensemble is primarily an instrumental group, Sorrell invites guest artists like Hauck to sing in specific programs.

“It’s always interesting to hear classically trained musicians do crossover stuff and still keep it authentic,” Hauck said.

Bergmann also said she is confident in the group members’ ability to combine their talents to produce this crossover show.

“This group has been around for about 15 years, and it did take a little bit of time for us to find truly common ground, but I believe that we’ve done it, and I’m pleased with the product,” Bergmann said.

Although Sorrell said she was amazed by the enthusiasm and setting of Chautauqua a few years ago, she is just as excited about this year.

“I’m excited about the chance to connect with an audience that is interested in Protestant-American church history, which I think most people at Chautauqua are,” Sorrell said.