Intimate program of spirituals lifts Seraphic Fire audience

By Alan Becker

“Ev’ry Time I feel the Spirit” is Seraphic Fire’s exploration of the music that lifted the enslaved souls of a people as they looked forward to a better promised land through the grace of a humane, and empathetic God.

The American Spiritual Trio is comprised of countertenor Reggie Mobley, tenor Calvin Lee, and conductor/pianist Patrick Dupre Quigley. St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Miami Shores was Thursday’s venue, and the program clearly won the hearts of those in attendance.

Many of the spirituals talk directly to God and seek to affirm faith at a time when it was most needed. There is no one alive today who can tell how this music sounded originally, so a tradition of concert performance has evolved. The names of Harry Burleigh, Hall Johnson and others figure strongly in the arrangements of this music for more sophisticated ears than the slaves who first sang it. Quigley, and the two soloists contributed their own arrangements of several pieces.

Both Lee and Mobley alternated singing the 20 spirituals, sometimes coming together in duet. Lee’s superbly trained tenor voice, experienced in handling operatic roles, frequently took on a baritonal quality, as he projected his strong, rock-steady tones ladened with expression in every phrase. Mobley’s heart-rending countertenor conveyed an even more intense emotional range.

Included among the spirituals were Ride On, King Jesus; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; There is a Balm in Gilead; My Lord, What a Morning; City Called Heaven; and Were You There? Florence Price, America’s first black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, was represented by her emotional setting of My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord.

Quigley’s piano accompaniment was spot on in conveying both the sadness, strength, swinging rhythms, and displaced accents in many of these arrangements. The audience clapped in rhythm to the humorous Scandalize My Name, and the gospel standard He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. It was all meant to inspire, and to bring people together, which this evening did most effectively.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables, 8 p.m. Saturdayat All Saints Episcopal Church Ft. Lauderdale, and 4 p.m. Sunday at Miami Beach Community Church.; 305-285-9060.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Intimate program of spirituals lifts Seraphic Fire audience”

  1. Posted Aug 07, 2010 at 10:38 pm by lawrence Terry

    How exciting and inspiring to hear 3 of our such gifted and well trained local musicians and performers right here in Miami presenting us with such an emotionally charged evening. Bring back Calvin Lee, where has he been hiding? We need more! Thank you Patrick, for your hard, hard work and dedication.

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Fri Aug 6, 2010
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