The 20th anniversary of “Too Hot To Handel” takes place at the Detroit Opera House Jan. 13. The performance features a trio of notable Detroit jazz musicians, including pianist Alvin Waddles, bassist Marion Hayden, and drummer Dave Taylor. Audience members will also hear Detroit’s oldest choir, The Rackham Choir under the direction of conductor Suzanne Acton, with solos from renowned soloists Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke, and Karen Marie Richardson.
A makeover of Handel’s classic “Messiah,” the production combines jazz, gospel, blues and R&B music into a blend of melodies and lyricism. The inaugural performance of “Too Hot To Handel” was presented by the Rackham Choir in 2000. The production became an annual staple at Detroit Opera for nearly two decades until performances were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the production makes its way back to the Detroit Opera House stage for the first time since 2019.
One Detroit contributor Cecelia Sharpe of 90.9 WRCJ stopped by the Rackham Choir’s rehearsal and spoke with Maestra Suzanne Acton to learn how Detroit’s “Too Hot To Handel” started 20 years ago at the Historic Little Rock Baptist Church and how it quickly expanded to the Detroit Opera with the support of the late David DiChiera. Sharpe also talks with Alvin Waddles about what gives the Detroit performance its unique flavor, and with tenor Rodrick Dixon about the melding of classical, jazz, and gospel music all into one performance.
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