As the streets of Bakersfield turn green this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, a quieter – but quite powerful – musical event will take place on March 18 when Southern California-based Duo Appolon perform at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
The group, made up of singer Anastasia Malliaras, 29, and guitarist Aaron Haas, 33, is named after Apollo, the Greek god of music and dance, as well as a nod to the Greek heritage of singer Anastasia Malliaras.
“We think those things (Apollo represents) — the light, the music, the poetry — really embody what we do as a duo,” Malliaras said.
The two have been playing together since 2017 and perform music from their original repertoire of art songs. What are Art Songs? It is music that Malliaras describes as “performed or sung in a classical style that is not taken from opera. (An art song is) a poem set to music but sung in a classical style, intended to be sung in a recital.”
This includes folk music from around the world, reinterpreted in an art song setting. However, not all songs are considered for this type of reinvention. An American folk song like “Shenandoah” would be acceptable but a song like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” would not.
Generally, if it is a piece of music for piano and vocal only, it can be custom made Apollo art and duet song and adapt the songs they perform to their medium especially guitar/vocals, even if the music didn’t start as such.
This is demonstrated when they perform selections from Franz Shubert’s “Winterreise” song cycle (a song cycle is a collection of art songs) which was originally composed for piano and voice.
“Not only does he (Haas) find the guitar versions of these tracks,” Malliaras said, “sometimes he’ll transcribe them himself if the guitar version doesn’t exist.”
In my experience, the virtuosity that happens in music usually comes from the performance. It is not always a question for a soloist of improvising on the moon or of composing a piece which highlights his advanced technicality. It’s in how a musician maximizes their skills to make the best choices and adapt to any musical setting. They don’t just play, they channel.
At this level, the musician has an almost supernatural understanding of their instrument and material, no matter how complex, which connects intuitively – and emotionally – with the listener.
The intimacy of voice and guitar has its own vitality.
“There’s a big difference between an instrument that’s going to reach the audience, like the piano or other orchestral instruments, and an instrument like the guitar, that almost invites the listener into its sound,” said Haas.
“I feel so lucky to have Anastasia as a vocalist because she’s able to bring the musical expression almost inside the music when we can both let the music out when appropriate; bring that kind of intimate quality, especially to the transcriptions we’ve done, is something unique to the voice and guitar combination.”
Haas’ playing and Malliaras’ voice are wonderfully impressive and dynamic. They approach the music they perform with incredible control, feel and musical stability. They really love what they do.
“I think where the beauty of this music is is where technique and artistry come together,” Malliaras said. “For me, personally, what I always try to convey is beauty: beauty in the music, beauty in the text.”
“I go into every gig thinking that I just want to reach everyone who needs a little beauty, who needs a little feeling, in their life. Even if it’s just a person in the public who are deeply touched.”
Their concert at Emmanuel Lutheran was booked as a stop on their way to their next concert in Monterey on Saturday, but it’s also a first for the duo.
“I’m so excited to play in Bakersfield,” Malliaras said. “This is our first performance north of Los Angeles. We’ve only played concert series in LA or Orange County, so it’s really exciting for both of us.”
“We’re excited to start taking our music to different places and sharing the beauty of art songs.”
I hope local music lovers of all kinds will show up and give them a gracious welcome to Bakersfield. They will not be disappointed.
Duo Apollo, presented by The Bakersfield Recital Series, 7:30 p.m. March 18, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 1900 Baker St. $10, $5 for students, seniors; tickets on eventbrite.com. Masks will be mandatory for this event.
Another standout event featuring a SoCal-based musical duo will take place this weekend — albeit of a different genre — at the Old River Monte Carlo on March 19.
Bantamweight is just crazy. Drummer Max Kelly – much like his fellow maniacs Kenwood Dennard, Louis Cole of Knower and Josh Dion of Paris Monster – divides his time between playing ridiculously complicated parts on a MIDI keyboard with his left hand and simultaneously playing drums with his other members.
He’s already a beast when he plays with only half his body on either drum Where keyboard. When does he go all-in either? It’s just on the upper level. Vocalist/bassist Keith Shacklett is no exception either.
Listen to the band’s song “Hellion” for a taste of the kind of prog-rock shenanigans unfolding: think darker, heavier, more intense Dream Theater.
Los Angeles-based band DeafBoutique will appeal to fans of Deftones and Korn, and local bands Band of Family, Wet Robot and Tall Dark are keeping the torch burning for inventive, powerful, guitar-driven local music. All this without admission fees. As Ted Williams, the Band of Family drummer who hosted this 21-plus gig, said, “It’s a show straight from the Sunset Strip to Bakersfield.”
Be advised: Parking at the Old River Monte Carlo is tricky, so plan ahead or you may find yourself trapped in a sea of cars. But if you’re a fan of all the flavors of modern hard rock, don’t be surprised to find yourself there for a long time. The pizza here is very good too.
Bantamweight, DeafBoutique, Band of Family, Wet Robot and Tall Dark, 7:00 p.m. March 19 at the Old River Monte Carlo, 9750 Taft Highway. Free entrance.
Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa brings you The Lowdown on local music and entertainment every second Thursday.