Jazz-Gospel Messiah’ returns to Chicago for MLK Jr. Day weekend – NBC Chicago


After a year off due to COVID-19, an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day tradition returns, as Chicago Auditorium Theater presents “Too Hot to Handel: the Jazz Gospel Messiah”.

This year’s show features three soloists: Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen-Marie Richardson, backed by a chamber orchestra, a jazz combo and a huge choir.

This is a concert suitable for MLK weekend.

“It’s an element of social justice, of inclusion, and it uplifts everyone, it transforms everyone, it transports everyone.” Burke says. “You’re not going to leave here the way you came.”

“Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah” is the brainchild of Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s current musical director. She, along with Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson, reinterpreted Handel’s Messiah while staying true to the original message.

It first premiered at Lincoln Center in 1993 and has since been performed nationwide.

“The idea was to find a bridge between classical music and crossover music, so that the general public would come to a concert who might not like classical music as much and find it acceptable,” says Dixon.

And for 5 years, the concert has also been broadcast live in prisons.

“I think one of the things people appreciate a lot is when Alvin Waddles does his piano solo and there’s a bit of Prince left, or a bit of Michael Jackson, or a bit of Aretha Franklin. “Dixon says.

The diverse music experience is meant for the whole family. And for those who don’t know, Alfreda Burke and Rodrick Dixon are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary.

“When they find out we’re married, it gets really interesting on the show, with people watching to see what I do and how I watch her when she sings. And then watching to see what she does and look at me when I sing,” Dixon said.

“Too Hot to Handel: the Jazz Gospel Messiah” is on stage Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Auditorium Theater. For rules on vaccination, negative tests and mask requirements, click here.


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