Seraphic Fire launches new choral institute at Aspen Music Festival
IF YOU GO …
What: Aspen Chamber Symphony with Seraphic Fire
When: Friday, Aug. 17, 6 p.m.
Where: Benedict Music Tent
How much: $87
More info: The program includes Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G.
What: ‘This Is Seraphic Fire’
When: Monday, Aug. 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Harris Concert Hall
How much: $25
More info: The proram includes choral works by Victoria, Monteverdi, Alvaro Bermudez, Jake Runestad,Dominick Diorio, Christopher Theofanidis and others.
What: A Recital by Seraphic Fire and Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute Singers
When: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Harris Concert Hall
How much: $25
More info: The program includes Faure’s Requiem and selected choral works.
Tickets: Tickets: Wheeler Opera House and Harris Concert Hall box offices; aspenmusicfestival.com
The Aspen Music Festival and School has not traditionally programmed much choral music during its summer season. But when they have it’s been popular.
“Patrons say to me, ‘We love choral music,’ ‘Why don’t you have more choral music?’” Aspen Music Fest President and CEO Alan Fletcher said.
They are getting their wish as the 2018 festival closes, with the launch of the new Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute — overseen by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire — and three choral concerts.
The inaugural class of 40 choral students arrived Aug. 10 for an intensive two-week residency of workshops, training and rehearsals that culminates in a performance at Harris Concert Hall on Aug. 22.
“Many of our students are on the cusp of having careers, and (Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute) aims to bridge the gap between the academic setting and a professional career,” said Patrick Duprey Quigley, Seraphic Fire’s conductor.
The training program is a key new piece of the choral music industry, serving as a pipeline to the professional entertainment world, where the number of professional choral groups has boomed over the past decade.
“It will show these students that there is a career path forward if you don’t want to be an opera singer,” said Rhett Del Campo, Seraphic Fire’s executive director. “How many artists can actually say they ended up making a living as an opera singer? So there is this new art form and this training program is specifically designed to show you that there is a career path.”
Del Campo spent three seasons as a percussion student in Aspen. He proudly states that he played the final concert in the old music tent in 1999 and the first one in the new Benedict Music Tent in 2000. When Seraphic Fire was looking for a home for this new training program, he knew Aspen would be a natural fit.
“One of the reasons this partnership made so much sense is that Aspen does the same thing that we’re aiming to do with this program,” he said. “It trains the next generation of professional musicians, but it does it in a really unique way. Not only do you get to study with these great teachers and play in ensembles, you get to play alongside them.”
The festival has been experimenting with post-season events in recent years, hosting guest orchestras and recitals after the school and the proper festival season closes. Seraphic Fire’s recitals may be a long-term answer.
“We’ve been looking at how to program beyond the boundaries of our season,” Fletcher said in the spring when the Seraphic Fire program was announced.
The public will get their first glimpse of Seraphic Fire — and some of the choral students — today in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in D with the Aspen Chamber Symphony at the Benedict Music Tent. So the Aspen Music Fest crowd will meet Seraphic Fire through, probably, the best-known work of choral music in the canon. They’ll perform under guest conductor Xian Zhang.
“The ‘Requiem’ is a chance for every musician to encounter Mozart at the very end of his life,” Quigley said. “The piece is simultaneously the pinnacle of the Classical vocal style, as well as a hint of what Beethoven and those who followed him would build on during the Romantic period.”
The additional concerts range further afield in the choral repertoire.
Monday’s recital, featuring Seraphic Fire alone, includes some of the ensemble’s signature works like Ingram Marshall’s “Hymnodic Delays,” which was originally written as electronic music but which Seraphic Fire transcribed for voices.
And on Wednesday, as Seraphic Fire performs with its students, they’re performing Faure’s Requiem and highlighting rarely performed a cappella works.
“Having 57 musicians onstage for that concert, we decided to explore some of this great music by Arvo Part, Wolfram Bucheberg, John Tavener, and others,” Quigley said. “The pieces themselves are short in length, but immense in their scope, requiring (in some cases) three choirs singing at the same time.”
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