Contemporary Take Puts a Gospel Spin On 'Handel's Messiah'

Dec 14, 2018

Chris Whitaker conducts “Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah” at New York City’s United Palace Theater.
Credit Bruce Caines

Ang Santos:  This is an interesting program.  We have a combination of music, gospel, jazz…bring us into this program a little bit.  What should people expect when they come to see this? 

Chris Whitaker:  This is a version of ‘Handel’s Messiah’ like you’ve never heard before.  It’s basically like Handel landed in the 21stcentury and crafted a modern oratorio for our time.  It’s the original ideas, melodies, and lyrics from the Messiah, but it’s reimagined though a contemporary lens.

AS:  A venue could really make or break this kind of show, am I correct?

CW:  Sure. The United Palace is actually the fourth largest theater in Manhattan.  It’s up at 175thStreet and Broadway.  For a while it was Reverend Ike’s church very famously, and now the Palace does all kinds of cultural programming.  People are going to be really surprised and delighted that the United Palace exists in our community uptown.

AS:  You say our community, that is your community?

CW:  Yeah.  I’m here in Washington Heights myself.  We’re going to be joined in this project by the Fort Washington Collegiate Church Community Choir which is made up of primarily residents from uptown, from Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood.  And most of our musicians, the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra, live and work right around this neighborhood.  It’s really a big uptown collaboration.  The soloists are fantastic.  We’ve got Djore Nance, Angela Birchett, Brianna Thomas who frequents Jazz at Lincoln Center, and up and comer Yancy Garcia who has the voice of an angel.  If you take the journey uptown to join us, you won’t regret it.  It’s going to be a really fantastic production.

“Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah” is showing on Saturday Dec. 15th3pm at New York City’s United Palace Theater.

To listen to the entire interview, click above.