Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
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Monday, December 4, 2000

Apollo Performing Arts review

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Sacramento Bee December 2000
Venturing into Sacramento’s concert scene with its Apollo Baroque Orchestra for the first time, Apollo Performing Arts from Oregon House in the Sierra made a highly noteworthy impression before an audience of modest size in Westminster Presbyterian Church Saturday night with a couple of rare treats from the Baroque, well-conducted by Argentinian Daniel Canosa. They won long applause. The major offerings were secular cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. The Handel was particularly rare and of historical interest, illuminating an important chapter in his life that some of the concertgoing public may not be aware of.
Born in Halle of a family of surgeons, Handel first went to Hamburg to pursue music, particularly opera, because that was the only German city where he could find it. But when a prince of the Medici invited him to Italy, he didn’t wait for a second invitation. Italy was the home of opera. Handel wrote some church music at first -- Dixit Dominus is still sung today -- but by age 26 he was in England writing operas, which made him famous.
Saturday night, the Apollo Baroque selected one of the cantatas with which Handel had his first successes in Italy, “Apollo and Daphne.” It’s a kind of miniature opera, for two characters. What makes it so memorable is that the genius of the composer was evident so early. Although the characters just stand there and argue, in the style of the day, their arguing has surprises, is lit with realism and gives rise to beautiful, spirited music.
The story is from ancient mythology. Daphne is the daughter of the river god; Apollo rescues everybody from a monster. For some reason, he’s bad-mouthing Cupid. “How can you ever dream of hurting me, you sightless archer?” he says. Cupid shows him. Zoila Muñoz, the powerful alto singing Apollo, arches her back and we know Cupid just hit his mark.
Apollo has fallen in love with the beautiful Daphne, but she has sworn off love. In a slow, lovely aria, accompanied by a beautiful obbligato on Baroque oboe by Michael DuPree, soprano Jennifer Ellis explains her philosophy. She’s outside Apollo’s jurisdiction, she claims; her forest belongs to Diana. Not so, he says. She puts it plainly: “Stay away, lustful god.” There’s a rapid-fire duet, Baroque-style. Apollo warns her that her beauty won’t last. She says his love won’t last, but her virtue will.
The other gods rescue her by turning her into the laurel tree. Apollo accepts the change and promises to make her eternally green, an adornment for the greatest heroes.
The singers were owed thanks for the temper and spirit of this musical argument, which was made plain by the printing of both the Italian and English texts in the program. The small orchestra, which also included excellent work by strings and a firm, well-timed continuo with harpsichord, was also very fine.
I deeply regret I am unable to report on Bach’s Wedding Cantata, “Weichet Nur,” BWV 202, the other major work on the program. Due to a misunderstanding entirely my fault, I arrived at 7:35 p.m.; the program started at 7.
For me, this resulted in a bit of irony, however. The closing selection, announced rather halfheartedly from the stage by Canosa, was one of the most delightful duets in all Bach, “We hasten with feeble but diligent footsteps,” from Cantata No. 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele.” It’s the song of two sinners trying to hurry to Jesus for salvation, but taking two steps backward for every one step forward, according to the rhythm of the music. They sang it beautifully and sent everybody away smiling.
William Glackin

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