Back for a third annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend set of performances, “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah” began life as the brainchild of conductor Marin Alsop back in 1993, who took the example of Mozart and Mahler and sought to have Handel’s “Messiah” completely re-imagined via a new musical idiom, that of jazz and gospel. Arrangements were made by Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson and performances became so popular that a recording was made in 2005, a year before the work received its Chicago premiere over the King holiday weekend, an event that was such a success that the piece was encored last year and is back again this year for what is becoming an annual tradition. Many consider “Messiah” a Christmas piece—never mind that Handel originally wrote it for Easter; jazz up those familiar arias, recitatives and choruses in gospel arrangements with some powerhouse voices and you have a swinging and joyously contagious contemporary take on an old warhorse. Suzanne Mallare Action will conduct a fifty-piece orchestra and the “Too Hot Choir” and vocal soloists that includes two out of Three Mo’ Tenors (and the subsequent Cook, Dixon & Young) Rodrick Dixon and Victor Trent Cook and soprano Alfrenda Burke. (Dennis Polkow).
Friday, January 18 at Auditorium Theatre