Too Hot to Handel
I didn’t know quite what to expect when my belle and I attended Too Hot to Handel recently. We were in for an unforgettable experience!
The piece was conceived and conducted by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s conductor laureate, Marin Alsop. It’s a brilliant interpretation of Handel’s Messiah as a blend of classical, gospel, and jazz.
Woodwinds give way to a piano, organ, and electric guitar. The violins sit to Ms. Alsop’s left, a contingent of saxophones wait behind the organ, to her right sits the brass section, and to her far right lie the violas and cellos. Before her sit three vocalists: a soprano, an alto, and a tenor. And, being Handel’s Messiah, behind the orchestra is a full choir.
Ms. Alsop clearly enjoys this piece tremendously, and it shows with her almost conspiratorial relationship with the audience. She is obviously in full control of the ensemble, but she makes it look a scene in a movie where an actor imagines beautiful music and in the background, musicians furiously work to make her whims come alive. Ms. Alsop, you are truly a joy to watch.
Even though the subtitle of the work is “A Gospel Messiah”, the music struck me as jazz. The melodious scatting of the tenor Thomas Young contributed, I’m sure, as did the amazing sax, piano and drum solos.
The choir did a fine job augmenting the orchestra. And let there be no doubt that the mezzo-soprano Vaneese Thomas and the soprano Cynthia Renée Saffron brought gospel to Boettcher Concert Hall that night!
Perhaps my only regret is that the balance was off in places, where it seemed that the choir drowned out the tenor more than they should have. I also found seemingly random arrangement of their choir robe styles distracting at times.
Truly, we were transfixed throughout the whole performance. I would heartily recommend this concert to anyone with an interest in Handel’s Messiah or new interpretations of classical works!