Seraphic Fire serves up a trove of Latin American treasures to close season

By Dorothy Hindman

"The Child Mary Spinning," Anonymous painting from Cusco Peru, 18th century.

“Treasures of the Mission Road,” Seraphic Fire’s final program of its tenth anniversary season, offers a fascinating foray into the musical world of Latin America during the late Renaissance and Baroque.  Artistic director Patrick Dupré Quigley has again programmed an evening of rare treats, with a top-notch program of joyous, uplifting works that had the audience smiling from start to finish.

Quigley’s inventive use of space and timbre was in full evidence from the start Wednesday night at St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church in downtown Miami, filling the neo-Gothic stone space with sonic surprises and ever-changing choral configurations. Following organist Kola Owolabi’s ornamental fireworks in the opening fantasia Tiento por la mi re by Juan Bautista Cabanilles, a loud hand drum erupted from the rear of the church, launching the chorus into Hancpachap, an anonymous Marian work in the native language of Cusco, Peru. A verse of organ continuo allowed the chorus to relocate to the apse of the church, for additional verses in female and male unison, and a rousing coda, accompanied by lute, organ and drum.

A brief chant by Spanish composer Antonio de Salazar was just enough distraction for Quigley to move a mixed quartet into the left transept of the church for a brilliant antiphonal surprise.  Mexican composer Manuel de Sumaya employed the early 18th-century Spanish polychoral style with two groups of unequal size in his imitative motet La bella incorrupta. Quigley capitalized on this with the quartet’s bright voices in the transept accompanied by lute, against a darker octet with organ in the apse, clearly delineating the composer’s polyphony.

Seraphic Fire’s trademark vital, cleanly energetic sound was on full display all evening, as was their delight in music-making.  Vamos a Belen todos a bailar (by an anonymous Bolivian composer) shone with the trio of well-matched soloists soprano Gitanjali Mathur, countertenor Reginald L. Mobley, and tenor Zachary Wilder, pitted against the rousing, polyphonic chorus.  De Salazar’s Atencion, atencion! featured Misty Leah Bermudez’s café con leche mezzo and showed off the chorus at its ringing best.

Another anonymous Bolivian hymn, Dulce Jesus mio, shone a spotlight on Seraphic Fire’s powerful, thrilling unison ensemble singing.  Even Juan de Araujo’s lullaby Pues mi Rey ha nacido en Belen was more energizing than lulling, sung with a bright, forward tone by tenor Bryon Grohman with an echoing chorus.

Other highlights included John Lenti’s captivating baroque guitar solo Cumbes, from Spanish composer Santiago de Murcia’s Codice Saldivar; Estelí Gomez’s penetrating soprano on the lamentation Ay, mi amado Pastor; a lighthearted female quintet on de Salazar’s madrigal Tarara, qui yo soy Anton; and the comically argumentative Fuera, fuera! by Brazilian composer Roque Jacinto de Cavarria, a dialogue between the Indians and Spaniards over which culture worships Jesus best.

Toe-tapping Latin American rhythms permeated the guaracha sections of Mexican composer Juan Garcia de Zespedes’ Convidando esta la noche for a finale that brought the audience to its feet.

Seraphic Fire will repeat the program four more times: 7:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton; 7:30 p.m. Saturday 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.

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One Response to “Seraphic Fire serves up a trove of Latin American treasures to close season”

  1. Posted May 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm by StephanieD'Alessandro

    Outstanding performance. Seraphic Fire is
    certainly broadening us musically. We left
    on a stormy evening smiling and can’t wait for
    more. Thank you to all the marvelous performers.

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Thu May 10, 2012
at 12:10 pm
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