Seraphic Fire Sets Cozy Concerts for Christmas


Since 1918, when the dean of King’s College in Cambridge, England, put together a “lesson” of carols for Christmastime, the idea of a special music service for the big holiday has established itself all over the English-speaking world.

Although it’s done holiday-themed programs in the past, this week the Seraphic Fire concert choir introduces its first Christmas-music event, which in keeping with the 8-year-old group’s focus, will be more classically oriented than something like an orchestral pops concert for the season.

But audiences increasingly have been asking for this kind of program, called A Seraphic Fire Christmas.

“The demand kept swelling,” said the choir’s assistant conductor, Brett Karlin. Seraphic Fire has concentrated during its history on works of the Western canon, but in recent years has put together evenings of music from the American gospel tradition that have proven extremely popular.

Hence the Christmas concert. “Seraphic Fire will offer historically informed performances,” Karlin said Tuesday. That will include singing the great medieval Marian hymn There is no Rose of swych vertu in its original Middle English, he said.

The program for the concert, which will be performed nightly from Thursday through Sunday in Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and then again Dec. 15, Dec. 16 and 17 at Miami’s Frost Museum, Miramar and Marathon, includes everything from plainchant to Michael Praetorius, from standard hymns such as Once in Royal David’s City and Adeste Fideles to Morten Lauridsen’s setting of O magnum mysterium and Elizabeth Poston’s lovely carol, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.

Music from the Eastern Orthodox tradition also will be represented, including Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditse Devo, which has proven to be a popular Seraphic Fire encore.

Karlin, who grew up in Boca Raton, joined Seraphic Fire this year after graduating from Florida State University. He said the concerts will feature touches of the theatrical, as do many of the group’s concerts. “There definitely will be candles,” he said, but other choreography will have to be customized for the layout of the churches involved.

“There will be four spaces where we’ve never performed before,” he said. “So it sort of depends on the venues.”

In the meantime, the chorus is planning for its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, which are set for Dec. 19 in the Knight Concert Hall and Dec. 20 at All Saints Episcopal in Fort Lauderdale. And this May, it will bring its 400th-anniversary celebratory performances of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 to several venues in Mexico.

But this week’s concerts of Christmas music are a much cozier affair.

“It’s meant to be welcoming,” Karlin said. “We’re in Seraphic Fire’s living room.”