LAURIANNE FIORENTINO IS SPEAKING TO A GROUP of tourists on a warm summer morning at San Miguel Chapel. Fiorentino, chapel director since July 2022, explains how the original 1610 structure was built the old way, using only mud bricks. She also tells how the Franciscan-designed church was partially destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and then repaired in 1710.
While most know San Miguel Chapel for its distinction as the oldest church in the continental United States, the historic space is breaking ground as a stage for an impressive lineup of concerts. “I call it the sweetest listening room in Santa Fe,” says Fiorentino, a longtime musician, singer, and songwriter. “The room becomes an instrument. That’s the special thing about the chapel.”
Growing up north of Boston, Fiorentino started playing the organ in her family home when she was just three years old. “My mother got me interested in music,” she says. “It was a source of comfort and magic and connection to the larger world.”
Fiorentino settled in Santa Fe and joined its music scene in 1992. A frequent act at venues such as Cowgirl BBQ and El Farol restaurant, she has played the Santa Fe Plaza every summer for 17 years and recorded two live albums at El Santuario de Guadalupe. In fact, music introduced her to San Miguel Chapel, which is privately owned by St. Michael’s High School, long before she took over as chapel director. “The acoustic value of the adobe walls and elongated chapel shape are unmatched,” she says. “The wooden floor has a space under it, and the space creates an acoustic swirl. It’s unlike any other space in the world.”
Fiorentino’s connections with other musicians and event producers—like Neal Copperman, of AMP Concerts; and Jamie Lenfestey, of Lensic 360—have helped to expand the offerings at San Miguel Chapel. Often, though, one group tells another about performing at the chapel, and then they want in. Musicians from around the world, including Armenian ensemble Naghash, Santa Fe–based Balkan choir Sevda, and classical guitarist Derek Gripper of South Africa, have all sold out the 127-seat venue.
Chamber Music at San Miguel Chapel fills the space with sonic brilliance on Saturdays from mid-July to late August. “There’s something so different about playing chamber music in an intimate space,” says Grace Browning, principal harpist with the Santa Fe Opera. “Our concerts here are very interactive. You get to know who the musicians are. It’s almost like you’re in our living room.”
Performers like to leave the doors open, so the sounds of their instruments float out on the afternoon breeze and pull in passersby strolling along Old Santa Fe Trail. “When you’re here, you know you’re someplace special,” Fiorentino says. “Music can soothe, calm, and move you toward a peaceful place.”