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Detroit Opera House

1526 Broadway St.
Detroit  Michigan  48226
United States
(313) 237-7464
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    - Tina Lassen

Midwest Living Review

A gospel version of Handel's Messiah, performed by a Detroit-area choir, incorporates jazz and classical music for a spellbinding jubilant afternoon.

In simple terms, "Too Hot to Handel" is a "jazz gospel Messiah'." Here, Handel's "Messiah" has been re-created with jazz and gospel, and a bit of blues and swing, too. In 1993, conductor Marin Alsop decided to reinvent the beloved 18th-century oratorio, inspired by friends who attended the "Messiah" solely to hear the "Hallelujah" chorus. To make the piece more current, Alsop added a jazz section, a gospel choir and three soloists who could sing opera as well as contemporary music. The result is a riveting, foot-stomping tribute to Handel's choral orchestral masterwork. The opening strains of "Every valley shall be exalted" soon give way to a swinging bass line, as the choir sways, claps and urges the audience to its feet -- where they'll stay, happily, for two hours. For the past 10 years, "Too Hot To Handel" has sold out at the meticulously restored Art Deco Detroit Opera House, where they perform a lone matinee. The Rackham Symphony choir, a multigenerational group of area singers, provide backup vocals. Midperformance, a piano solo incorporates Fats Waller, Scott Joplin and some familiar Christmas tunes like "Frosty the Snowman." The three soloists, each more charismatic than the last, turn Handel into the smooth, sleek jazzy tones of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. By the time the "Hallelujah Chorus" arrives, even the most reticent guest will be swinging, singing and clapping. Visitors are encouraged to dance down the aisle for a high-cardio end to a rousing, inspiring afternoon of music. Tickets from $20.

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