Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Seraphic Fire Presents Handel's Messiah

Seraphic Fire, Miami's fully-professional chamber choir, was created in response to a perceived need for performances of Renaissance, Baroque, and Contemporary art music in South Florida. It was conceived as an ensemble of young, virtuosic musicians who would bring both their youth and talent to a program offering a more adventurous fare of music than the larger musical organizations in the area. Seraphic Fire endeavors to introduce audiences to musical masterpieces while encouraging an atmosphere that welcomes even the least experienced concert-goer.

In the Spring of 1742, Georg Frideric Handel premiered his great oratorio: Messiah. It was reported in the Dublin Journal by an anonymous critic that, "On Tuesday last Mr. Handel's Sacred Grand Oratorio, the Messiah, was performed by the New Music-Hall in Fishamble Street. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestik and moving words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear." Today, two hundred sixty four years later, Handel's Messiah is one of the most frequently performed and beloved choral works around the world.

Conductor and Artistic Director Patrick Quigley places the sixteen vocalists in front of the nineteen instrumentalist in an attempt to be true to the original intent of the composer. In past years, many performances of the Messiah have focused on huge choirs and the sound to match their size. The result has been productions whose approach more nearly match the dynamic stylization of Beethoven rather than Handel. The Messiah's infamous "Hallelujah Chorus" is probably most frequently given this heavy-handed treatment. Beethoven was monumental in his contribution to music. His louds were louder, his softs were softer - and the two were juxtaposed as never before. The two men differed in style substantially; however, it was Beethoven who said, "Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave."

Quigley provides a beautifully shaped Messiah in the way in which Handel would have wished. The musical lines are propelled forward by perfectly blended vowels and cut-offs. The voices used are exemplary in their correct use of technique in approaching this material. The only flaws to the entire evening were a few string players being a quarter tone flat for much of the performance, and a young soprano soloist that was not as polished as the rest of the ensemble. Bravo to an evening of beautifully done music!

This performance of Handel's Messiah appeared on December 21, 2006 at the Gusman Center in downtown Miami, Florida. For more information on Seraphic Fire, you may contact them by phone at 305-476-0260, on line at

Artistic Director: Patrick Dupre Quigley

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See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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