In the dark-wood setting of the Tudor Arms ballroom, fierce duels blazed between the baroque strings: guitars versus harpsichord, viola da gambas versus the rest of Apollo’s Fire. And when the notes finally settled from the tangos and fandangos, clearly the audience won.
Conducting as she performed, founder and director Jeanette Sorrell cheered from the harpsichord bench, with her arrangement of fandangos inspired by Spanish composers Santiago de Murcia and Luigi Boccherini. Adding a contemporary force to the foray, cellist/gambist René Schiffer presented selections from his “Tango Concerto for Two Violas de Gamba.”
“My ‘Tango’ Concerto originated in 2000 as a playful attempt to show that the gamba can be a loud instrument,” explained Mr. Schiffer in the program. “Thanks to the use of chords and double stops, the two gambas easily stand out in this piece against an ensemble of strings and guitars.”
The annual fundraiser capped a season rich with tours in the United Kingdom and Ireland as well as concerts stateside. A highlight, no doubt, was the orchestra’s major recognition in January, winning the 2018 Grammy Award for best classical solo vocal album for “Songs of Orpheaus,” with Karim Sulayman. And yes, the Grammy was proudly on display near – but certainly not a part of – the silent auction array.
To fuel the continuation of Apollo’s Fire music, Charles A. Bettenbender, board president, urged the 284 donors packing the ballroom for the $80,000 needed to reach the gala’s $225,000 goal. He resisted the traditional loud auction and raised paddles, favoring the quiet completion of the donation cards placed on the tables. “Please pledge the amount that honors the enjoyment you receive from Apollo’s Fire,” he said, “and then add some more, just to make sure.” STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY TURBETT