CD Review

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Amazing Grace: A Gospel and Bluegrass Journey
Seraphic Fire
Patrick Dupre Quigley, artistic director

Folk, bluegrass and gospel normally fall far outside the Classical Review’s charge. But even if this is not your cup of homemade apple cider, the freshness, dynamism, and joyous spirit Patrick Quigley and Seraphic Fire bring to this indigenous American music makes this disc hard to resist.

The CD by Miami’s versatile chamber choir collates live performances of the “Amazing Grace” concerts taped in November 2007, a program encored at several venues last month. From colonial composer William Billings to Roberta Martin’s 20th-century arrangement of the popular hymn, the program takes a brisk 66-minute Baedeker guide through the American musical landscape, incorporating the revivalist, folk, country, and African-American church traditions.

Artistic director Quigley and his singers bring characteristic polish, buoyant agility and the elegance one would expect in Handel’s Messiah or Bach’s motets (also available on the choir’s CDs). But the classically trained singers also manage to loosen up collectively and individually and provide the rough edge, religious fervor and rhythmic swing apt for this populist repertoire.

Highlights include a gorgeous rendering of James C. Moore’s Where We’ll Never Grow Old, a fine twangy rendition of I’ll Fly Away, Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light, and a call-and-response medley in which Quigley provides his own gutsy solos and nimble piano playing. Several live excerpts are available on YouTube including Where We’ll Never Grow Old (, Precious Lord (, and In My Robe of White (

Anyone with an interest in American music and/or superb choral singing should investigate this disc. The Amazing Grace CD is $18 including shipping and handling. Go to, call 305-476-0260, or write to Seraphic Fire at 536 Coral Way, Coral Gables, FL 33134.

Posted in CD/DVD

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Sun Jul 6, 2008
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