Choral Artists of Sarasota Presents “Too Hot to Handel” Sunday, December 10 at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

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Choral Artists of Sarasota Presents

“Too Hot to Handel”

Sunday, December 10 Ÿ Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

The Choral Artists of Sarasota, State College of Florida Concert Choir, Festival Singers of Florida, Manatee Performing Arts High School, and acclaimed soloists from the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will raise the roof of the Van Wezel with this jazzy and gospel arrangement of Handel’s “Messiah.”


(Sarasota, FL) For something completely different and full of musical sizzle, Choral Artists of Sarasota heats up the holidays with a return of “Too Hot to Handel,” an exuberant, gospel reinvention of Handel’s classic, “Messiah,” Sunday, December 10, 7:30 p.m., at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Conducted by Dr. Joseph Holt, the performance features 100 singers, including the 40 singers of the Choral Artists of Sarasota, soloists from the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, and singers from the State College of Florida Concert Choir, the Festival Singers of Florida and the Manatee Performing Arts High School, and Sarasota’s finest professional orchestral musicians. Tickets are $25-$75. Student tickets are $15. For tickets and info, visit or call 941-387-4900.

According to Choral Artists’ artistic director, Joseph Holt, last season’s production of “Too Hot to Handel” at the Sarasota Opera House was such an audience hit, it made sense to restage it this year at a larger venue. “There was standing room only last year—and dozens of requests to do it again. We’re thrilled to be able to present it to a larger audience this year.”

Holt adds that performances of Handel’s joyful “Messiah” are a time-honored tradition during the holidays. “We’re jazzing it up with a soulful, electrifying version that has audiences rejoicing in the aisles. The concert hall literally dances with joy and spirit throughout.”

Co-arranged in 1993 by composers Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson from an original concept by Marin Alsop, “Too Hot to Handel” takes Handel’s original music from the “Messiah” and transforms it to create a jazzy, gospel version of the original. They added saxophones, electric bass, electric guitar, piano, percussion and the Hammond B3 organ to the orchestration, all of which evokes the modern sound of gospel music. Soloists improvise and soulfully recreate the oratorio, incorporating the improvisational elements that are characteristic of both modern gospel and jazz.

“The end product is still recognizable as the 18th-century Handel classic but in a medium that is unquestionably that of the 20th century,” says Holt.

Another inspiration for Holt is the chance to collaborate with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and its artistic director Nate Jacobs. “It’s a thrill for all of us to be working with Nate and his acclaimed performance group again this season,” says Holt.

Featured soloists include Nate Jacobs, Syreeta Banks, Amy Jo Connours, Sherwood Davis, Samone A. Hicks, and Leon Pitts.

Founded in 1979, Choral Artists of Sarasota (formerly Gloria Musicae), Sarasota’s only professional chorus, presents the greatest hits of the last four centuries along with lesser known gems and the work of living composers with imaginative programming and musical excellence. The chorus consists of 34 professional singers and eight apprentices.

For more information, visit


About the Choral Artists of Sarasota

The Choral Artists of Sarasota, now in its 39th season, features 32 of the region’s most notable professional singers. The group celebrates the rich, artistic expressiveness of choral music through innovative repertoire, inspired performances and stimulating educational outreach. Under the artistic direction of Dr. Joseph Holt, Choral Artists of Sarasota performs a repertoire spanning four centuries, and includes symphonic choral works, intimate madrigals, folk songs, close-harmony jazz, and Broadway show music. The ensemble also specializes in premiere performances of lesser-known choral works—particularly music by living American composers. Choral Artists of Sarasota has performed premieres by René Clausen, Dick Hyman, Robert Levin, Gwyneth Walker and James Grant. As part of the organization’s educational outreach, eight young singers, ages 16 to 22, are invited to join the group each year. For more information, visit

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