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Review: Apollo's Fire 'jams' into 'Mediterranean Nights

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Monday, Nov. 9, 2009

Saturday night's concert by Apollo Fire was inspired in all the ways one expects of this brilliantly led ensemble. But the smart choice of repertoire and the artistry to perform it memorably were supplemented by an over-arching sensibility absent from most "thematic" concerts.

The program was called "Mediterranean Nights" and had the festive spontaneity of an impromptu jam session.

The quietly haunting sounds of the old Spanish melody "The Song of the Birds" emerged from the back of Synod Hall in Oakland to open the concert with the beautiful playing of violinist Veronika Skuplik-Hein. When she reached the stage, other musicians joined her in a lovely arrangement by music director Jeannette Sorrell.

Soprano Nell Snaidas brought flair and sharply differentiated feeling to her singing, which included a lament and a fiercely dismissive song. She was duly subdued in a drolly humorous song about a woman confessing to breaking all Ten Commandments out of romantic passion -- well, nine really, but she also confesses to feeling no repentance.

The musicians set up a deliciously inflected 6/8 rhythm for dancer Steve Player's first solo, which was mainly Spanish in its focus on footwork, but added a little Italian flair in a twirling leap.

Sorrell combined two fandangos for the exuberant finale, in which Player and Snaidas danced with increasing affection. It's been eight years since Apollo's Fire last appeared at a Renaissance and Baroque Society's concert. Let's hope they're back much sooner than that.

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