Seraphic Fire: A Treasury of the Mission Road

Miami Art Zine
Steve Gladstone
July 16, 2012

Dupré Quigley, offered south Florida audiences an unlikely program of late Renaissance and Baroque compositions from Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. The “Treasury of the Mission Road” package contained 14 pieces, both instrumental and choral, from known and unknown composers of distinctly Spanish origins, some born in the Americas taught by Spaniards, some from Spain traveling to the new world, all steeped in sacred European musical traditions.

Quigley made effective use of the entire hall and kept his singers fluid, moving them like certain chess pieces across the board into various configurations to wring the most out of each colorful composition.

The first piece out of the box was assigned to organist Kola Owolabi who decorated the hall with “Tiento por la mi re” by Juan Bautista Cabanilles, a polyphonic keyboard work no doubt influenced by Italian composer Gabrieli. Sonority dominated this piece, hinting at a style J. S. Bach would exploit almost simultaneously across the pond.

A hand drum from the rear of the hall announced a procession of singers moving up the aisle to the stage delivering “Hancpachap,” an anonymous Peruvian song enlisting theorbo (lute-like instrument), drum and organ, soon blending into “Defensor alme hispaniae” and “La bella incorrupta” (Antonio de Salazar and Manuel de Sumaya), bringing several acoustic looks from a beautiful unison chorus to male voices in monophonic style chant, the female voices responding in kind, and a breakout into a lively counter play of melody between vocal groups. Rich bottom tones from the double bass were supplied throughout by James Bass.

It is remarkable how the musical idioms of the day from dominant European composers such as Gabrieli and Monteverdi had migrated so intact to the Central and South Americas. Dressed in black holding red songbooks, the accomplished SF ensem, hailing from all parts of the country and performing likewise in distant locales, embraced these traditionally sacred songs laced with native Latin folk rhythms with full throat and equally bursting spirit. Solo soprano, countertenor, and tenor (Gitanjali Mathur, Reginald L. Mobley, and Zachary Wilder, respectively) posited to a buoyant and responsive chorus in the anonymous “Vamos a Belen todos a bailar,” their smile fed energy abundantly apparent. Juan de Araujo’s lullaby, “Pues mi Rey ha nacido en Belen,” was clearly and sweetly rendered by tenor Bryon Grohman, the chorus in tow. The stand-out mezzo Misty Lea handled the lively beat of de Salazar’s “Atencion, atencion!” with ease, raising the bar on the chorus.

A couple of anonymous Bolivian hymns for holy week (“Dulce Jesus mio” and “Ay, mi amado Pastor”) featured the SF troupe in the homophonic style (same words, same rhythm, at the same time), solemn and prayerful, soprano Estelí Gomez sweetly exclaiming, the chorus lifting her call.

In the home stretch of this agreeable 70 minute program, guitarist John Lenti nimbly captured the authentic feel of baroque Spanish composer Santiago de Murcia’s “Cumbes,” while five ladies taking center stage broke into a lively Gilbert and Sullivanesque bounce (Sir Arthur were you listening?) with de Salazar’s “Tarara, qui yo soy Anton”. The chorus then took up sides as Spanish settlers verses indigenous Indians to duke it out for the honor of who worshiped the baby Jesus best with Roque Jacinto de Cavarria’s comic news report, “Fuera, fuera!”

A rousing flight of voices in de Araujo’s “Los coflades de la estleya” preceded the dynamic finale-“Convidando esta la noche” from Mexican composer Juan Garcia de Zespedes-where the sacred collided with the rhythmic, a church-like piece which quickly turned raucous, sending the audience enthusiastically back to the 21st century.

“Heaven’s joy…,” some of the translated program text, coincidentally describes this afternoon’s Mother’s Day Seraphic Fire performance.
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