The biggest news of Seraphic Fire’s 2014-15 is the Miami choir's new partnership with an esteemed period-instrument orchestra, the Sebastians. The New York-based ensemble will join the choir for four concert programs next season, with works including Vivaldi's Gloria and Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass.
The choir’s current affiliated orchestra, the Firebird Chamber Orchestra, won’t be dropped entirely but will no longer be used for anything from the Classical period or earlier, said Patrick Dupré Quigley, Seraphic Fire’s founder and artistic director.
“Anything pre-Beethoven will be done by the Sebastians,” Quigley said. “Anything post-Beethoven will be done by Firebird.”
Aside from the Sebastians’ reputation for top-quality music-making, Quigley said, the use of a period-instrument ensemble has become an essential element of any recording of music from the Baroque period or earlier that hopes to crack the European market. And he said it will bring a more authentic tone to the performances in South Florida.
“I wanted the sound of gut strings for Vivaldi,” he said. “I wanted the classical bow for Haydn.”
The post-Beethoven work in which Firebird will participate will be Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in an arrangement for chamber-sized forces by the German composer Rainer Riehn. For these performances, Seraphic Fire has also assembled two stellar soloists, tenor Bryan Hymel and mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer.
“If we're going to do Das Lied I wanted voices that would blow the roof off,” Quigley said. “And we certainly have those.”
Another highlight will be a performance of the Vespers by the contemporary American composer Kile Smith. His Vespers will be presented with the Renaissance wind band Piffaro, which plays on instruments such as bagpipes, recorders, sackbuts, krumhorns and lutes.
There are also a few crucial venue changes. Seraphic Fire will no longer perform in Palm Beach County, after having performed previously at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Boca Raton. Also the choir will be leaving their long-time base at First United Methodist Church in Coral Gables. New venues next season include the University of Miami's Gusman Hall, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, St. Philip's Episcopal Church of Coral Gables and Miami Shores Presbyterian Church.
The season opens Oct. 15-19 with a series of concerts of contemporary American folk music called “How Can I Keep Singing?” Next comes the first concert with the Sebastians, with performances of Vivaldi's Gloria from Nov. 7 to 9. The choir’s popular Christmas concerts, which typically span 1,000 years of holiday music, run Dec. 10-14. Another Christmas perennial follows, with Handel's Messiah on Dec. 19-21.
Performances of Gregorian chant, with the Latin texts sung in staged performances by candlelight, will run from Jan. 14-18. Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass will be performed with the Sebastians Feb. 13-15.
Music of Bach, Palestrina and other composers that led up to Mozart’s famous Ave Verum Corpus will be performed March 11-15. And Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Bach’s cantata Ich Habe Genug will be performed April 17-19. The season will end with Kile Smith’s Vespers May 6-10.
“I feel like we have a lot of momentum going into this season,” Quigley said. “It’s an incredibly broad range of music. It’s a privilege to collaborate with people who are the best in their fields.”