Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 19:30

Concert review: St. Louis Symphony's "Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah" Thursday and Friday, December 12 and 13

Kevin McBeth Kevin McBeth slso.org
Written by Gary Liam Scott
Rate this item
(5 votes)

Powell Hall generated enough heat to light up the entire city December 12-13 with performances of “Too Hot to Handel:  The Gospel Messiah”, invigorated by the combined talents of soprano Cynthia Renee Saffron, mezzo La Tanya Hall, tenor Thomas Young, the St. Louis Symphony and the SLSO IN UNISON Chorus, guided by the hands of Kevin McBeth.

Although some purists might argue that re-envisioning an ensconced classic such as Handel’s “Messiah” may threaten its iconic dignity, one could also claim the very opposite.  For one thing, a contemporary stylized version of the “Messiah” serves to educate and spark the interest of new listeners so that they may wish to become acquainted with the original.  Several years ago, in a stunning testament to the decline of American education, reporters on a major non-cable television network referred to the “Messiah” as “one of the most famous songs ever written”, demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge of what an oratorio is and what Handel sought to convey.  (At least, though, the network should be commended for running a story on serious music, flawed though it was.)  The Gospel version retains the integrity of the oratorio framework, along with Handel’s original melodies and, in many cases, the traditional harmonies.  Even the basic role of the Baroque orchestra is maintained, substituting an improvisational gospel piano style for the harpsichord continuo and leaving brass, percussion and strings (and yes, a few saxophones and other things) in place.

Interestingly, too, we know that the Baroque era, in which the “Messiah” was birthed, was a period in which transcriptions, revisions and new harmonizations were gleefully arranged and accepted.  Even so, the “Gospel Messiah” is a bold departure, but clearly hewn from precedent.

Laying such matters aside, the “Gospel Messiah”—the brainchild of Marin Alsop, Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson—is a riveting and rollicking transformation of a beloved work into way may well become a new tradition in its own right.

Mounting such a work is not for the fainthearted; the performance requires verve, energy, electricity, self-confidence and a willingness to let go and simply ride the music.  Fortunately, these factors were abundantly present.  The musicians, chorus and vocal soloists acted as co-creators, not just participants.  Although there was not a weak link anywhere, tenor Thomas Young’s magnificent voice, in particular, engulfed the hall.  Though perhaps not as strong in terms of volume, Cynthia Renee Saffron and La Tanya Hall exhibited a florid agility that complemented Young’s massive resonance.

Conductor Kevin McBeth welded together the diverse ensemble, which included various guest instrumentalists.  Faced with the task of maintaining unity and control without sacrificing spontaneity, he negotiated the waters with aplomb and artistic good sense.  All in all, a highly enjoyable, yet always meaningful, homage to a great masterwork.

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


Karate Bikini - A Simpler Sugar

Wed November 26
Karate Bikini is an eight piece ensemble who's members hail from St. Louis and the metro area. They are a large band with a large sound. Their latest album A Simpler Sugar is full of upbeat pop songs,…

88.1 KDHX Shows

m-crowd.jpg

KDHX Recommends

January
Saturday
17

Recording Clinic with Patrick Crecelius

KDHX is proud to host a DIY mixing workshop for musicians at The Stage at KDHX. The clinic will be taught by Patrick Crecelius of Cedar Box Studio. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, his credits include such local artists as Ryan...


January
Sunday
18

88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round Welcomes The Boogers

The Boogers are the brainchild of Dr. Paul Crowe. Fatherhood, a PhD in Developmental Psychology, and 20 years of sloggin' it in wretched clubs as a punk rocker - even opening for Dee Dee Ramone and Marky Ramone - formed Paul's...


February
Sunday
01

Discovery Series

The Discovery Series, a 10-event series spanning February to June, 2015, will not only bring you new music, but also music-focused interactive sessions that take a look at how music plays a role in our society. Each month the...


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

7 users and 13582 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook