Sugarloaf Mountain – An Appalachian Gathering

Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra, Jeannette Sorrell
69:06
Avie AV2329

The impetus behind this collection goes back to Jeanette Sorrell’s experience between 14 and 17 playing piano for the Greenway Southern Baptist Church and accompanying an Appalachian singer, Madeline MacNeil. She then turned primarily into a harpsichordist and conductor. Later, she returned to her interest alongside her serious musical activities – not that it’s a helpful distinction. But the music here isn’t like the Appalachian music when I have heard it on radio and previous recordings. I expected to find the tunes more rhythmic, and was disappointed. I happened to have a performance of one of Berio’s settings of “Black is the colour of my true love’s hair”, which is of the fuller version – sadly, I’ve lost the one for Berio’s wife and a viola , which somehow makes more of an impression than either of the tunes here. I expected “The Cruel Sister” to be sung without too much variety – a little gesture is for me more impressive than what is done here. I don’t know where my expectation of Appalachian singing comes from, but I suspect that the hymns were strict, and the method here seems to imply musicality of a different nature that has expanded with the “early music” aspects which Jeanette seems happy with.

I’m pretty certain that if I went to a concert, I’d enjoy lots of it, though would imagine that the expression is rather excessive. But in their own way, they are extremely skilful.

Clifford Bartlett