November 30, 2012

'Too Hot to Handel' sizzles


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Lightning may not strike twice in the same place, but Handel was an exception last summer.

The fallout is “Too Hot To Handel,” presented by the SUNY Plattsburgh Gospel Choir and Champlain Valley Voices at the choir’s Soulful Christmas 2012 concert Sunday.

“It was serendipitous,” said Dr. Dexter Criss, artistic director of the Gospel Choir. “Andrea (Ogle, music director) and I were talking about ‘Too Hot to Handel’ over the summer. I said this would be a great thing to do with Champlain Valley Voices.”

Two weeks later, Dr. Karen Becker, artistic director of Champlain Valley Voices, called Criss with the same idea.

“I said, Karen, you will not believe this, Andrea and I were talking about this. I told Karen the logistics would be crazy, but let’s just say yes and work out the details later.”


Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop collaborated with Gary Anderson and Bob Christianson to create “Too Hot to Handel,” a jazzy and soulful interpretation of G.F. Handel’s classic “Messiah.”

“It’s almost like a collision of two worlds: gospel and the classical form of the oratorio,” Criss said. “‘Too Hot to Handel’ represents a marriage of the gospel and classical genres.

“The fact that our two choirs can come together to collaborate speaks well to what can happen when people decide to bring to the table the best of what they do. The Gospel Choir brings in the rhythmic and energetic part. CVV brings the disciplined choral approach.

“Having a skilled band that can handle the music, it will make for an amazing night. As I have been telling people, it’s a night too hot to handle.”

“Too Hot to Handel” selections include “And Suddenly,” “And He Shall Purify the Sons of Levi” and “Glory to God.”


The second half of Sunday’s program features the choir’s traditional soulful holiday and gospel fare, as well as the kinetic offerings of the Praise Dance Team and Step Team. WIRY Home Town Radio’s Charlie Stone will emcee the event.

“We’re doing traditional Christmas carols and down-home Southern song selections,” Ogle said. “We’re doing a mixture.”

The choir will perform a “Joy to the World” sing-along, “Higher Medley” from the film “Joyful Noise” and “Have You Heard About the Baby,” recorded by the Broadway Inspirational Voices.

Down-home selections include Patti Labelle’s rendition of “Ready for a Miracle” and Donna Lawrence’s gospelized a capella of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

“That is going to be nice,” Ogle said. “Joining us on that is a UVM student, Alan McCarthy, singing bass. He’s super excited.”


Sunday’s program gets an additional dose of Handel with Quincy Jones’s gospel arrangement of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The Gospel Choir unites again with Champlain Valley Voices.

“It’s definitely more upbeat,” Ogle said. “It’s definitely not one you can stand poised and just sing it. You have to really bop and kind of groove with it, which makes it so fun. Quincy Jones is really creative with coming up with that arrangement.

“The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ is the meeting of the two genres, of the two styles. It’s at the end of the program, a closing selection with CVV.”


The Champlain Valley Voices and the SUNY Plattsburgh Choral Union will present Handel’s “Messiah” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at United Methodist Church, 127 Beekman St., Plattsburgh.

“It really gives a better appreciation of the different styles of the interpretation of religious text,” Ogle said.

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WHAT: Soulful Christmas 2012, presented by the SUNY Plattsburgh Gospel Choir. 

WHEN: 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday.

WHERE: E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium, Hawkins Hall. 

ADMISSION: Tickets in advance from Angell College Center desk: $5 students, $12 faculty, staff and public. Tickets at door: $8 students, $15 faculty, staff and public.