Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Seraphic Fire Christmas CD/itunes recordings

 Now ten years old, the Miami-based professional choral ensemble Seraphic Fire, under the leadership of Patrick Quigley, has become a major choral force in the choral world, not just in the US but globally. Singing a wide-ranging, highly creative repertoire, producing Grammy-nominated CDs, becoming involved in a big way in musical education in the community- Seraphic Fire is doing it all!

This month they have released their second CD/iTunes release of Christmas music. Here is the info on that recording which, in just a  few days of release, is scaling toward the top of the classical release list. 

Silent Night

Ordering information

Or through Amazon:

But before this CD there was another one which I have been meaning to review for quite awhile now. I finally got around to starting on that review when I realized they were about to release another Christmas CD. So, with apologies to Patrick Quigley for my tardiness, here is the review of the earlier, quite wonderful CD. I hope to review the newest  CD soon, and am also going to review their other Grammy-nominated release from last year- the Brahms' Requiem in the piano 4 hands version.


For those of you looking to add a quality new Christmas recording to your collection, let me suggest the Grammy nominated “A Seraphic Fire Christmas”, by the Miami-based group Seraphic Fire, released about a year ago. Patrick Quigley, Seraphic Fire’s young and highly talented director, was kind enough to mail me a copy a number of months ago. He also mailed me their recording of the Brahms’ Requiem, which I will review soon as well.

1) Pater Noster 2) Ave Maria 3) Tota Pulchra es Maria 4) Verbum caro factum est 5) Adeste Fideles / O Come, All Ye Faithful 6) Once in Royal David's City 7) Quem pastores laudavere 8) O magnum mysterium 9) O Little Town of Bethlehem 10) There is no Rose of such vertu 11) Once as I Remember 12) Es ist ein Ros 13) Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day 14) The Lamb 15) Jesus Christ the Apple Tree 16) There Will Be Rest 17) A Merry Christmas

A Seraphic Fire Christmas

Quigley’s repertoire choices for the Christmas CD are brilliant and the whole forms a wonderful progression/arc as the disc plays out. Tracks one through seven take us back in time to the world of chant and chant-influenced music. From this simple, yet elegant beginning, the rest of the CD journey unfolds delightfully. After establishing the homophonic plainchant mode on tracks one and two, Seraphic Fire’s clarity and graceful delineation of free polyphonic line radiate on track three- Durufle’s “Tota Pulchra es Maria”. Another treat here in the first seven tracks is the original Latin chant of “Adeste Fideles” paired with “O Come, All Ye Faithful”. We recognize the Adestes chant as the source of “O come, All Ye Faithful”- but we also hear how the more, to us, familiar “O, come” melody differs here and here from the original Latin tune. This pairing by Quigley is artistically informing and appreciated by those interested in origins and influences.

At track eight we take a detour for Morten Lauridsen’s much-beloved “O Magnum Mysterium”, and Quigley changes the tone color to a more modern one here; there is far more warmth and atmospheric modernity in the sound than in the earlier tracks, which are remarkable in their resonance, but sparing in their use of obvious vibrato. Quigley has made strong decisions on the soundworld of this choir for this CD, especially in regard to the model he wants for the older music on the recording. His model, I believe, is wonderful- there is especially a nice ringing through “the mask” in the men’s voices. The women’s voices, in the earlier era music, somewhat suggest the English cathedral boy soprano pure headtone- yet they are obviously artistic, musically sophisticated women’s voices- not boy choristers.

As the CD progresses, the repertoire generally becomes more modern, and the singing more 20th-21st century in approach. This of course is the most obvious on the final selection, (We Wish You a) “Merry Christmas”, where the singers pull out all the stops and have a rip-roaring time with this jolly arrangement.

Backtracking to two other earlier selections, I have two big favorites. Track 12 is Praetorius’ “Es ist ein Ros”. I love the fact that Quigley tacks on the canon of this piece by Melchior Vulpius which was created a few years after Praetorius’ original. The shift from the homophonic tune to the canon is delicious. The other drop-dead gorgeous track is Seraphic Fire’s’take on living English composer John Tavener’s “The Lamb”, one of my most favorite small Christmas repertoire gems. Quigley understands that all he and the singers need to do is create in sound, with their utmost artistry and vocal skill, what is on the page. Tavener’s melding of text with a haunting melody of odd intervallic turns in two-part voicings  is magical and sparingly simple in the best meaning of that term- there is no need at all for any choir to try too hard to make it more than it what was meant to be. Hearing this, and many other tracks here, one is amazed by Quigley’s musical maturity and artistry- he is still a very young man with much greatness ahead of him and for his ensemble. 

Seraphic Fire is one of the very few premier, fully-professional choral ensembles in the country. Let us hope that they continue to succeed season after season in their home base of Miami and also continue to amaze us with brilliant recordings. I highly recommend this CD/itunes recording!
Link to

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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