'Too Hot to Handel: Gospel Messiah' Brings a Jazzy Twist to Holiday Staple in St. Louis and Chicago

By Louise Burton on Dec 06, 2013 01:38 AM EST

Just about every major orchestra in the U.S. presents Handel's Messiah during the holiday season, with some even opting for the do-it-yourself version. But for those ensembles and audiences craving a little variety, there is "Too Hot to Handel: A Gospel Messiah."

The St. Louis Symphony will present this jazzy, high-energy Messiah on December 12 and 13, with the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus led by Kevin McBeth. They will be joined by soloists Cynthia Renee Saffron, La Tanya Hall and Thomas Young.

Tickets are available HERE.

In Chicago,"Too Hot To Handel" has found an annual home at the Auditorium Theatre. It will be presented there for the ninth year in a row in special post-holiday performances--held to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. These performances on January 18 and 19 will feature the 150-voice, city-wide Too Hot choir.

More information is available HERE.

"Too Hot to Handel" was the brainchild of conductor Marin Alsop, who is currently music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Back in the early 1990s, she realized that the venerable Handel score needed an update, and she could readily imagine the "Hallelujiah Chorus" as a gospel number.

With the help of composers Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson, "Too Hot to Handel" became a reality.

"It really lends itself, in my opinion, to different stylistic treatments," she said in an interview before a performance of "Too Hot to Handel" with the Colorado Symphony in 2010.

"The melodies are the same, the text is the same, what's different about it is the feel, the orchestration and harmonic additions," Alsop said. "But the basic DNA of the piece is identical to Handel's intent. And that was very important to me, to maintain the integrity of the piece."

In 1993, Alsop conducted the first performance of the work at Lincoln Center with the Concordia Orchestra and Morgan State Choir. 20 years later, "Too Hot to Handel" is still inspiring audience members to get up and dance in the aisles wherever it is performed.

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TagsToo Hot to Handel: A Gospel Messiah, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Kevin McBeth, Cynthia Renee Saffron, La Tanya Hall, Thomas Young, Auditorium Theatre, Marin Alsop

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