On Tuesday, when its sublime new album, “Ave Maria: Gregorian Chant,” goes on sale, the twice-Grammy-nominated choral ensemble Seraphic Fire wants you to help them game the system: If everyone already interested in the album will buy it on opening day, Seraphic Fire hopes the algorithms used by Google and Amazon to track its popularity will kick-start a cascade of attention, both digital and human, that will put “Ave Maria” on the Billboard classical chart next week.
Gimmicky? Maybe. But Seraphic Fire founder and artistic director Patrick Dupre Quigley says it’s just the way a young company does business. Seraphic Fire is about the same age as Myspace and Facebook, with members ranging from 25 to 40.
“This group was founded with social media already becoming an integral part of society. The way we communicate has always been through electronic means,” says Quigley, 35, who is as well versed in algorithms as he is in the music of monastic clerics of the Middle Ages. “[Young people] must take advantage of all the great opportunities cyberspace has to offer. Maybe it’s for skateboards. Maybe it’s bubble gum. Maybe it’s also classical music.”
If the effort is successful, it would not be the first time Seraphic Fire found itself the focus of a pop-culture blip.
In 2010, the ensemble made national news when its Monteverdi album “Vespers of 1610” made the iTunes classical chart in its first week, alongside Yo-Yo Ma and the London Symphony Orchestra. When NPR acknowledged the “zero to hero” success of the album, it ended up very briefly on the iTunes all-genre chart next to Lady Gaga.
A year later, Seraphic Fire was no longer unknown, receiving Grammy nominations for two albums, the Brahms “Requiem” and “A Seraphic Fire Christmas.”
Talking to Quigley, you get the sense that Tuesday’s scheme is more fun experiment than marketing necessity. “Ave Maria” is filled with “an incredible amount of mystery and soul,” he says, and will find an audience on its own.
“This is the best recording project we’ve ever done,” Quigley says. “It’s the real thing, and we want everyone to hear it.”