By Sebastian Spreng, Visual Artist and Classical Music Writer
Seraphic Fire has just launched a CD and, like the group’s previous Grammy-nominated recording, it’s a winner. The new album brings together some of the hits performed by the Miami-based group as it continues to achieve success at home and abroad. The result is a winning combination, a heady mixture – seasoned, piquant, fresh, bubbly – that under the attentive direction of SF founder Patrick Dupré Quigley encapsulates a decade of growth and development.
From William Billing’s sublime Invocation (the source of the group’s name) to Jake Runestad’s I Will Lift Mine Eyes, the selections form a varied and colorful musical mosaic, a good sample of the diversity of the ensemble’s hometown. Further evidence is the Padre Nuestro composed by guitarist Álvaro A. Bermúdez, a piece that packs the same punch here as in concert. A simple, natural and heartfelt musicalization of the prayer, performed with perfect timing and enviable ease.
The solemnity of Maurice Duruflé’s Notre Pere contrasts with the unmistakable freshness of Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco’s A este sol peregrino, sung in good Spanish, as is Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez’s Misa Criolla, in a way that revitalizes the 60s feel of the folk Mass. Three contemporary American composers put the company’s versatility to a test that it passes with flying colors: Ingram Marshall’s Hymnodic Delays, the Pie Jesu from The Road from Hiroshima and, especially, the beautiful piece that young Runestad (b. 1986) composed to accompany Psalm 121, a work that uniquely captures Seraphic Fire’s style and spirit.
The album ends with two of the group’s favorite encores, both by Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández. In Morales-Matos’ arrangements, they leave listeners with the same smiles they draw in concert: Cachita and El cumbanchero, songs that sweep away all solemnity though they are performed with the same fervor as the “serious” pieces. A fitting cocktail to toast the incoming summer and help us cope with Seraphic Fire’s absence till next season.