I have the good fortune to sit on the board of directors of Seraphic Fire, South Florida’s premier choral group.
Each month during the past 14 seasons, Seraphic Fire has gathered the best and brightest talent from around the country to come to Miami to rehearse and perform for us, lovers of great choral music in search of the mellifluous tones of the period. It is a unique ensemble and one that may look different each time you attend a concert.
The only thing that remains constant are the 13 voices that long to be together. That is the magic of this talented band of music makers — they are more than experts in the repertoire that they are singing. They are the best in the business at it.
This past month, the performance featured a variety of composers coalesced around a single theme: The American Spiritual. Given that most of the venues are local churches (and in this case St. Phillips in Coral Gables), the music was not only fitting for the backdrop, it was the perfect juxtaposition.
Scheduled to coincide with release of their latest CD, Steal Away, this Grammy-nominated group did not disappoint. In fact, with a full house on a Friday night, the spirit moved the audience again and again as founding artistic director Patrick Dupre Quigley took us on a journey through myriad composers who created what may be our most authentic music, the American Spiritual.
Patrick’s style is beyond engaging and he loves to tell the story of each piece the ensemble performs. The audience sits rapt as he delivers the minute details and cherished nuggets that one would not ever read on an LP jacket or CD cover. He has found these morsels in his research and through the specific notes left behind by these composers, sometimes centuries ago.
This attention to detail is what makes Seraphic Fire so successful. Audiences love the music, but they also love where the music originates and how it remains relevant today. Think of it as classical music for all classes. Yet, it is as accessible to all of us as if we were listening to it for the first time on satellite radio. In truth, we know what we like when we hear it. These composers of the period were the Adele of their day, only instead of working for a demanding record label, they often were patrons of the king and commissioned to produce these astounding works. It was both their life and their livelihood.
For those of us who love music of this period, there is usually some galvanizing moment in our earlier lives that brings us to this level of appreciation and passion for the energy that is created by the crystalline voices performing today.
I can trace my roots back to my earliest memories. Music was always in my home growing up. My mother taught piano to the neighborhood kids (she gave up on me soon after I butchered Chopsticks and I gladly switched to the trumpet), sang in the choir and made sure we could read music in the same way we could the written word on the pages in a book.
And thus, from the time I was in the fifth grade, there were weekly lessons, after-school rehearsals for the symphonic and marching bands, and more performances on stage, in parades, and on the field that I can recall or recount. It consumed my life and it taught me discipline, leadership skills and teamwork.
Thus, from the day my love of music was born, it has been further nurtured along the way through constant exposure to performances that inspire, incite passion and enrich my life.
It is part of my DNA and the strands that run through my body carry the notes, the melodies and harmonies with them. It is easy to appreciate this now and, thanks to Seraphic Fire and groups like it, I can cherish it forever.