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Brahms' greatest vocal work, Requiem Mass, a treat for audience, choir

Miami-based chorus Seraphic Fire will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Professional Choral Institute held at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Abdiel Thorne | Special to the Times

Miami-based chorus Seraphic Fire will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Professional Choral Institute held at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The Requiem Mass that Brahms wrote after the death of his mother is his greatest vocal work, and not just for the audience.

"It's one of the most satisfying pieces to sing in all of the repertoire," says Patrick Dupre Quigley, artistic director of Seraphic Fire, a professional chorus in Miami. "It requires a lot of heavy lifting from a singer, but it's remarkably rewarding at the same time."

Quigley conducts Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) Saturday with 22 Seraphic Fire singers plus 28 aspiring professional choristers at the Professional Choral Institute, held at the University of South Florida in Tampa. They'll be accompanied by the four-hand piano version of Brahms' score.

Seraphic Fire is part of a trend toward professional choirs in the United States, building on the not very long tradition established by the Robert Shaw Chorale and later groups like Chanticleer. The Miami chorus has had notable successes, from singing with Shakira on her album Oral Fixation 2 to its CD of Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 masterpiece, Vespers of the Blessed Virgin.

The singers come from all over the country. "Of the five tenors who are singing the Brahms, three of them have doctoral degrees and are university professors," Quigley says.

James Bass, artistic director of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and director of choral studies at USF, sings bass with the group.

The concert is at 8 p.m. Saturday at the USF Music Building, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $18.50-$40.50. Information: seraphicfire.org.

Dueling youth orchestras

Hillsborough County now has two youth orchestras. The newly formed Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra recently announced that William Wiedrich accepted the position of music director. Wiedrich, associate professor of conducting at USF, had been a conductor with the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. He took the youth orchestra to Carnegie Hall and conducted the 2008 premiere of Dream Threads, a ballet score by Augusta Read Thomas commissioned by Patel.

In what sounds like a musical coup d'etat, three other former Patel conductors — Jason Jerald, Sandy Neel and Colleen Strom — also moved to the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, which will perform at the USF Music Building. Executive director Jessica Calandra is former manager of the Patel youth orchestra.

After this wholesale departure, the artistic director of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra is Gregory Ruffer, former music director and founder of the Orlando Chorale.

State arts funding up

The 2011-12 Florida state budget includes $2 million for cultural and museum grants, more than double the amount allocated in the current fiscal year. It's still a far cry from when state arts funding was enough to make more than a token impact. The appropriation has steadily declined from 2006-07, when it totaled $13.1 million. Many bay area organizations are in line for funding. The Division of Cultural Affairs should have the final lists of grantees and grant amounts ready by the end of June.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716.

Brahms' greatest vocal work, Requiem Mass, a treat for audience, choir 06/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 9:47pm]
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