Seraphic Fire marks its 10th anniversary with a richly sung, generous retrospective
Seraphic Fire celebrated its tenth anniversary on Wednesday night with a retrospective program, focusing on works commissioned or premiered by the choir. A rousing performance of Invocation by American colonial-era composer William Billings opened the festive proceedings in the acoustically superb sanctuary of St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church in Miami. The Billings hymn was the opening piece on the choir’s first program a decade ago. Its opening line “Majestic God, our muse inspire, And fill us with seraphic fire” was the inspiration for the choir’s name.
Artistic director Patrick Quigley divided the singers on both sides of the church for Maurice Durufle’s Notre Pere, a sumptuous Gallic setting of The Lord’s Prayer. The overlapping waves of sound swept through the sanctuary, the music’s uplifting message strongly projected. Serene and felicitous melodies of Iste Confessor by Alessandro Scarlatti showcased the choral glories of the Italian Baroque. The purity and meltingly beautiful singing of soprano Kathryn Mueller dominated the performance, gently accompanied by Alvaro Bermudez’s guitar.
Hymnodic Delays by Ingram Marshall has become a signature piece for Seraphic Fire, a staple of the choir’s tour repertoire. Originally conceived by the composer for vocal quartet and electronics, the unplugged choral version was arranged by Seraphic soprano Suzanne Hatcher. Each of the three movements performed is based on an American hymn tune. In “Bright Hour Delayed,” the choral looping of the concertante quartet produces ethereal harmonies to hypnotic effect. Teresa Wakim, Misty Bermudez, Derek Chester and Paul Max Tipton splendidly handled the high vocal lines of the solo foursome. “Bright Road” is more vigorous, the echoing vocal effects inventive and ear catching. Marshall’s writing is challenging and consistently engrossing. It would be difficult to imagine a better performance of this fascinating score, Quigley drawing singing of extraordinary sweetness and strength from his ensemble.
The Florida premiere of I Will Lift Mine Eyes by Jake Runestad offered quintessential choral Americana, recalling the harmonically complex vocal scores of William Schuman. Dominus Vobiscum by Haitian-American composer Sydney Guillaume is a rhythmically vital, beautifully crafted score that displays Seraphic Fire’s wonderfully smooth and mellow signature sound. Tipton took special honors as the refulgent baritone soloist.
Ariel Ramirez’s Misa Criolla attained great popularity during the 1990s. Today the work’s combination of Latin dance rhythms and traditional mass sounds somewhat dated in its uneasy combination of populist elements and sacred text. Matthew Tresler was the dulcet tenor soloist, encompassing the wide leaps of the vocal line, and the exuberant performance received the most enthusiastic audience response.
Quigley concluded the anniversary party by turning to the indigenous music of Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez — the rollicking Cachita and El Cumbanchero, which have been utilized for countless films and circus acts. Here Quigley found the bounce and harmonic spark of originality in the songs, his singers bringing the same joyous enthusiasm they give to Bach or Monteverdi. With the choir’s three recent Grammy nominations, successful touring and education programs and a decade of innovative and high quality music-making, there is much to celebrate indeed.
Seraphic Fire repeats the program 7:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton, 7:30 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Coral Gables, 8 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Ft. Lauderdale and 4 p.m. Sunday at Miami Beach Community Church. 305-285-9060; SeraphicFire.org.
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Thu Jan 12, 2012
at 12:04 pm