Too Hot To Handel® – The Gospel Messiah ConcertPurchase Tickets
Peoria Symphony Orchestra
George Stellutoconductor
The Heritage EnsembleSharon Reed, director
Alfreda Burkesoprano
Brianna Thomasmezzo-soprano
Rodrick Dixontenor
Concert 1
2:00 pm lobby
3:00 pm start

Concert 2
6:30 pm lobby
7:30 pm start
The Scottish Rite Theatre
400 NE Perry Ave
Peoria, IL 61603
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Part 1
No. 1 -Sinfony
No. 2 -Comfort Ye
No. 3 -Every Valley
No. 4 -And the Glory of the Lord
No. 6 -But Who May Abide?
No. 7 -And He Shall Purify
No. 8 -Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive
No. 9 -O Thou That Tellest
No. 10 -For Behold Darkness
No. 11 -The People That Walked in Darkness
No. 12 -For Unto Us a Child is Born
No. 14 -There Were Shepherds
No. 15 -And Suddenly
No. 17 -Glory to God

Part 2
No. 18 -Rejoice Greatly
No. 19 -Then Shall the Eyes
No. 20 -He Shall Feed His Flock
No. 21 -His Yoke is Easy (Chorus)
No. 22 -Behold the Lamb of God
No. 23 -Surely He hath Borne our Griefs
No. 26 -All We Like Sheep
No. 28 -He Trusted in God
No. 47 -Behold I Tell You
No. 48 -The Trumpet Shall Sound
No. 37 -The Lord Gave the Word
No. 38 -Why Do the Nations So Furiously Rage Together?
No. 44 -Hallelujah!

Messiah has become a part of our musical culture to an extent that Handel, sharp entrepreneur though he was, could never have dreamed of when he completed the oratorio 280 years ago. Messiah has never gone out of style since its first performance in 1742, but here also is a tradition extending back to the 18thcentury of revising this work to fit current tastes. Here we present a 1992 arrangement recasting this familiar work in Gospel and jazz styles. Joining the Peoria Symphony Orchestra for this concert are Alfreda Burke, soprano; Brianna Thomas, mezzo-soprano; Rodrick Dixon, tenor; and The Heritage Ensemble.

The production of “Too Hot to Handel” was co-arranged by Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson. The original concert was developed by Marin Alsop.

Too Hot To Handel® – The Gospel Messiah will take place on Saturday, December 10, 2022, at 3 pm OR 7:30 pm at The Scottish Rite Theatre.

Program Notes

Alfreda Burke

Alfreda Burke’s vocal artistry has been described as “voluptuous, creamy and luxuriant” by the Chicago Tribune. She made her Carnegie and Orchestra Hall debut in Strauss’Elektra with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Daniel Barenboim and has appeared in concerts throughout North America and Europe. Highlighted performances include the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia under Erich Kunzel; Cincinnati Pops Symphony Orchestra; Michigan Opera Theatre/DSO/Rackham Choir; Royal Philharmonic (London); Prague Philharmonic; Umbria Music Festival (Italy); Todi International Music Masters (US); Miss World 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2021 (China, UK, US, Puerto Rico); Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, Miss World Beauty With A Purpose and Rise Against Hungerevents, Gala (South Africa); Humanity Rising: Notre-Dame Reborn virtual Gala; Sentinel of the Sea Award Virtual Celebration honoring Gary Sinise; Holders Season Gala (Barbados); Lancaster Festival; Corrales Cultural Arts Council (New Mexico); Grant Park Music Festival; Millennium Park Gala; Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Kennedy Center; Auditorium Theatre 125 Living the History; Orpheum Theatre(Memphis); Chicago Opera Theater; Chorus Angelorum; Chicagoland Pops Orchestra; Siamsa na nGael; and NATO Chicago Summit, among others.

Learn more about Alfreda Burke

Brianna Thomas

Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “perhaps the best young straight-ahead jazz singer of a new generation,” Peoria native Brianna Thomas is poised to join the ranks of legendary jazz artists. With regular performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, major jazz festivals worldwide, and recently acclaimed album releases, her star is definitely rising. In fact, Downbeat magazine recently gave her latest album, Everybody Knows, a four-star review! Born and raised in Peoria, Brianna grew up surrounded by music. It didn’t take long for people to notice her talent and potential. Just shy of her teens, Brianna’s talents were discovered by distinguished jazz educator Mary Jo Papich. Soon after, Brianna toured Europe with the Peoria Jazz All-Stars, a big band under Ms. Papich’s direction. This was the beginning of Brianna’s career as a jazz vocalist. Ms. Thomas is the PSO’s 125th Season’s Artist-in-Residence.

Learn more about Brianna Thomas

Rodrick Dixon

Rodrick Dixon possesses a tenor voice of extraordinary range and versatility that has earned him the respect and attention of leading conductors, orchestras, and opera companies. Notable operatic engagements include Los Angeles Opera in the title role of Zemlinky’s Der Zwerg conducted by James Conlon and as Walther von der Vogelweide in Tannhauser. At Michigan Opera Theater and Todi Music Festival, Dixon appeared as Tonio in La Fille Du Regiment. He also appeared as Lenski in Todi’s production of Eugene Onegin.  At Portland Opera, he performed the title role of Les Contes d’Hoffmann; Prince in Opera Columbus premiere of Vanqui;  Sportin’ Life in Virginia Opera’s Porgy & Bess; the Duke in Rigoletto for Cincinnati Opera; and Opera Southwest in the title role of Rossini’s  Otello. Recordings include (Sony/BMG), PBS Great Performances Cook, Dixon & Young Volume One released in (2005), Follow That Star Christmas CD (2003), Liam Lawton’s Sacred Land (2006), and Rodrick Dixon Live in Concert (2008) and a Christmas album with the Cincinnati Pops. Dixon made his debut with the PSO with this season’s performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in September 2022.

Learn more about Rodrick Dixon

The Heritage Ensemble

The Heritage Ensemble performed its inaugural concert at Dingledine Music Center in August 1999 in preparation for the Opera Illinois production of Porgy and Bess. Conceived out of a need to fill a cultural void in the region, the Ensemble exists to celebrate African American history and culture through music. People of all cultures will be exposed to the diversity, beauty, richness, and complexity of musical genres born out of the African American experience in this country. These diverse genres — spirituals, blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, work songs, and hollers— are presented as“edutainment” for the community. The Heritage Ensemble presents three major concerts per year: The Dr. Martin Luther King Choral Celebration, Juneteenth: An AmericanCelebration, and An Evening of Jazz! The Heritage Ensemble takes great pride in being leaders in enriching the cultural fabric in the region.

Learn more about The Heritage Ensemble & Sharon Reed

Concert Sponsors & Underwriters

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

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Peoria Symphony Foundation Soderstrom Skin Institute Illinois Arts Council Agency
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