Perfect Pitch: Début Season

by patrickmccoy

Patrick Dupré Quigley talks family history, life with Seraphic Fire and desert island composers. 

By Patrick D. McCoy

PDQ Pub Conductingedit

Conductor Patrick Quigley will lead the acclaimed Florida-based ensemble Seraphic Fire in its Washington inaugural season at Saint Paul’s Church, K Street on November 10. (Photo by Abdiel Thorne)

Two-time Grammy-nominated conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley, 37 chats it up about the Washington début season of the Florida-based ensemble Seraphic Fire and northeast performances.

Washington Life: What initially sparked your interest in music and your eventual career choice as a conductor?
Patrick Quigley: My grandmother was a piano performance major in college and my grandfather’s mother was a church organist. All of her five sons sang in a barbershop group every Sunday and she directed it live on the radio. My parents sang all the time around the house and they figured out that when I was a baby that I would not be quiet. The only thing that kept me quiet was putting me between the speakers playing a recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Stokowki’s transcription of the Bach “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.” That and Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” would keep me rapt until the record would get to the end.

WL: Tell us about the decision to establish a musical presence in Washington, D.C.
PQ: As we were thinking about the future of our ensemble and where we wanted people to hear our music, D.C. was on the top of our list. We wanted to bring that combination of choral and orchestra music with original instruments to Washington. It’s sort of exciting for us.

WL:  What are some of the things that will distinguish Seraphic Fire from some of the ensembles that Washington audiences are already accustomed to hearing?
PQ: We like to think of ourselves as a historically informed ensemble no matter what the period is. In our first program, we will perform music from the French and English Baroque periods, featuring the music of Charpentier, Purcell and a number of pieces by Handel. In February, we will perform the Mozart “Requiem,” but as completed by a young American composer Gregory Spears. We commissioned this piece two-and-a-half years ago and it is an amazing kaleidoscopic sort of combination of various styles. At the beginning of that program we will be performing selections from Gluck’s “Orfeo” and in April we perform the Brahms “Requiem,” a version Brahms wrote for piano and four hands.

WL: What were some of the factors that made yourself and Seraphic Fire a prime candidate for two Grammy nominations?
PQ: The Brahms program that we are bringing to Washington in 2016 is the program that got us our first Grammy nomination. The combination and breadth of repertoire at the opposite ends of the spectrum was something I think the Grammys found encouraging in terms of the art form.

WL: How is Seraphic Fire presenting this style of music in a way that engages young audiences?
PQ: We, along with a number of our colleagues, are trying to present this music not as a relic in a museum, but instead as something that you feel as if the composer is in the room with you.

WL: How do you balance your career and everyday life?
PQ: That’s a really good question. When I am not performing, my husband and I like to cook, work on the house, watch Netflix and spoil our dog. It’s a question that I think a lot of musicians deal with.

WL: Who would you consider to be your desert island composer?
PQ: I don’t think I would want to live in a world without Mozart’s Italian operas, especially “The Marriage of Figaro!”

Patrick Quigley will conduct Seraphic Fire in Charpentier’s “Te Deum” Nov. 10 2015, 7:30 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (K Street) Click here for more performance information and to purchase tickets.

After earning degrees in music from Virginia State University and Shenandoah University, Patrick D. McCoy has contributed arts pieces to CBS Washington and The Afro-American Newspaper, among others.  He also writes the magazine’s monthly performing arts column “Perfect Pitch.”  McCoy may be reached via email at and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy

Related Articles