Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mini-Review iof Seraphic Fire's new Christmas Recording

A few weeks ago I reviewed “A Seraphic Fire Christmas”, a Grammy nominated recording from last year (CD and iTunes) from by the Miami-based professional choir led by Patrick Quigley. Today I will give you a mini-review of their brand new Christmas recording, “Silent Night”. It's not too late to get this in time to listen to for this Christmas, especially if you use the iTunes download option.

Silent Night

Track list

The First Nowell

I Wonder as I wander

Preces (and Responses)

Hymn to the Eternal Flame

Glory to Thee, My God, This Night

Ding Dong Merrily on High

Carol of the Bells

Gitanjali Chants

Little Child in a Manger

Veni, veni Emmanuel

O Magnum Mysterium


Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Niño de Rosas, from Three Mystical Choruses

Silent Night

The singing on this recording is resonant and full, the intonation impeccable and the sound recording superb. Seraphic Fire has set the bar high for themselves with each recording, and this one is no exception. It is especially rewarding to hear them match their singing to the personality of each piece- quite evident in the most dramatic, passionate piece, Steven Sametz' setting of the Spanish text Niño de Rosas, with a robust solo by Lexa Farrell. Because Quigley's professional singers are so adept in so many vocal styles, he can sculpt the sound of each piece to his precise liking.

There are some tracks here that alone justify purchase of the CD. A striking performance of an old chestnut, Victoria's “O Magnum Mysterium” is sheer perfection, magically balancing both linear and horizontal axes of the late Renaissance counterpoint. Likewise, the sheer beauty of tone and tuning of modern American harmonies in Stephen Paulus' little gem “Hymn to the Eternal Flame” is magical. Gitanjali Mathur's soaring, glorious descant on the final verse brings chills to the spine. While there are a number of songs which may be unfamiliar to the average listener, there are still plenty of standards to satisfy those who want to hear new recordings of music they are already familiar with. Among these the standouts are performances of John Rutter's arrangement of “I Wonder as I Wander”, the Wilhousky arrangement of “Carol of the Bells”, and Quigley's own arrangement of “Silent Night”.

Seraphic Fire just keeps getting better and better as they enter their second decade. Patrick Quigley continues his tradition of letting the music speak without overreaching or getting in the way. His magic is in finding just the right sound and approach to each piece the ensemble presents. Bravo, Seraphic Fire!

More on Patrick Quigley:

Patrick Dupré Quigley is the Founder and Artistic Director of Seraphic Fire and the Firebird Chamber Orchestra, has been described by the Miami Herald as, “a musician with a constellation of qualities rarely found in a single conductor: an enthusiastic and audience-friend personal style, a scholar’s instinct for rooting out obscure but worthy music, a scrupulous and historically informed approach to works that span a wide range of musical periods, an ability to bring out the best in his talented platoon…and a showman’s canny sense of how to appeal to audiences"

 This past year, Mr. Quigley was nominated for two 2012 Grammy awards for his work with Seraphic Fire and the Professional Choral Institute: Best Choral Performance for Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, and Best Small Ensemble Performance for A Seraphic Fire Christmas.  Seraphic Fire was the only chorus in North and South America to be nominated for a 2012 Grammy award, and Quigley was the only conductor to be nominated for two separate recording projects.  Under his direction, Seraphic Fire has released ten recordings on the Seraphic Fire Media label, with three additional recordings forthcoming this year.
2012 sees Mr. Quigley making guest appearances with the San Francisco Symphony’s Community of Music Makers series, Cincinnati’s professional Vocal Arts Ensemble, and two separate appearances with the San Antonio Symphony.  With Seraphic Fire, Patrick will conduct over 65 performances across the United States.

Quigley is the recipient of the 2004 Robert Shaw Conducting Fellowship, given annually by the National Endowment for the Arts and Chorus America to one conductor between the ages of 25 and 40 who demonstrates the potential for a significant professional career.  At 26, Mr. Quigley was the youngest person to receive this award.  Most recently, Mr. Quigley was awarded Chorus America’s 2011 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal, recognizing his artistic and institution-building achievements with Seraphic Fire.

Patrick received his M.Mus in conducting from the Yale School of Music and his B.A. in musicology from the University of Notre Dame, and is a graduate of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy’s Fundraising School.

More on the Ensemble:

Entering its second decade, Seraphic Fire has become one of South Florida’s most important performing arts organizations and has a national reputation for choral music excellence. Led by Founder and Artistic Director Patrick Dupré Quigley, Seraphic Fire brings the best ensemble singers from around the country to South Florida to perform repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to newly commissioned works. This past year, the ensemble’s recordings Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem and A Seraphic Fire Christmas were nominated for two 2012 GRAMMY awards. Seraphic Fire was the only choir in North or South America to be nominated, and the only classical ensemble in the world to be nominated for two separate projects.

In addition to a critically-acclaimed chamber choir, the organization has established Firebird Chamber Orchestra, which collaborates with Seraphic Fire on choral-orchestral masterworks as well as independent concerts of orchestral repertoire. The orchestra, like the chorus, is made up of top-tier performers from around the country who fly into Miami for intensive periods of rehearsal and performance.
Seraphic Fire is also committed to educational outreach: the Miami Choral Academy, Seraphic Fire’s inner-city education initiative, aims to change lives of underprivileged children by offering daily afterschool choral music instruction at disadvantaged Miami-Dade County public elementary schools. The program currently serves 200 children in five after school choirs.

Additionally, Seraphic Fire has established the annual two-week Professional Choral Institute & Artistic Director Academy which trains aspiring pre-professional singers and conductors with the aim of giving them the musical and business skills to make professional choral and ensemble singing their full-time vocation. The Professional Choral Institute is the only such program in the United States.

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