With 20 years behind it, Seraphic Fire becomes a Gables institution
When Seraphic Fire founding member and artistic director Patrick Quigley steps on-stage, the applause is deafening. The atmosphere in the room is boisterous as whoops and hollers echo across the pews of St. Philip’s Episcopal in Coral Gables. The crowd has come to spend their Friday evening enjoying the musical stylings of Johann Sebastian Bach by the professional vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire – and they’re excited.
The cantatas of Bach are central to Seraphic Fire’s annual Enlightenment Festival, a key piece of their 20th anniversary season. Over the last two decades, the organization has grown from rehearsals in Coral Gables churches into an internationally recognized ensemble with 16 albums, two Grammy nominations, and a devoted following in the Gables and beyond.
Quigley and fellow Gables resident Joanne Schulte founded Seraphic Fire in 2002 following a conversation about their mutual love for a French Baroque ensemble, which inspired them to create a similar organization in South Florida. Seraphic Fire was born, and in the two decades since has covered everything from ninth century songs to Renaissance music to commissioned pieces.
“There was definitely a need for [a professional vocal ensemble], and we just started putting on shows to see if anyone would show up,” says Quigley. “We were fortunate that it became very popular very quickly.”
In addition to entertaining the community, Seraphic Fire is a strong advocate for musical education in Coral Gables and beyond. The Seraphic Fire Youth Initiative (formerly the Miami Choral Academy) brings music workshops to public elementary schools across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Collier counties (including Gables Elementary), giving students the chance to learn from professional musicians. The ensemble also holds an annual masterclass for high schoolers participating in local and national choral competitions. At the collegiate level, the Ensemble Artist Program allows student musicians at University of Miami and UC Los Angeles to sing with the ensemble during the season.
Seraphic Fire also has a podcast about classical music, a pre-concert lecture series, a magazine, and a residency at the Aspen Music Festival, but the group’s work in the community is the big draw for their devoted patrons. “We have a really dedicated and enthusiastic following of people from all walks of life who are interested in music outside of the mainstream of classical music,” Quigley says.
One of these devoted supporters is Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Trowbridge, who formerly served as co-chair of Seraphic Fire. “When you volunteer for something you love – and know that the music we produce is world-class in every way – it is easy to raise your hand and offer to serve in an even higher capacity,” Trowbridge says. “No one does it better than our ensemble and I could not be prouder of what the future holds.”
Although the organization’s reach has expanded, with offices on Coral Way, Seraphic Fire still proudly considers the Gables home. “It’s unique for [the city] to have something that is at the top of the game in the national classical music world but that is still primarily serving the people of Coral Gables,” Quigley says. “When people go home and talk about their experiences with Seraphic Fire, you know they’re talking about a Coral Gables institution.”
Seraphic Fire Concerts in Coral Gables:
St. Philip’s Episcopal
1121 Andalusia Ave.
Church of the Little Flower
2711 Indian Mound Trail
Tickets can be purchased online at seraphicfire.org/tickets