Q&A with Bob Christianson

Bob Christianson  Too Hot To Handel

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Bob Christianson is an accomplished musician, composer, arranger, orchestrator and conductor. He has scored music for HBO's Sex and the City. His career started in New York City as a musical director and conductor for Broadway shows, including Godspell, The Magic Show and Gilda Radner Live from New York. In the concert arena he had the good fortune to work on several projects with his friend Martin Alsop, his favorite being Too Hot to Handle with co-arranger Gary Anderson.

Too Hot is a jazz-gospel Messiah and appears at The Auditorium Theater celebrating a decade of performances this January 17 and 18, in celebration of Dr. King's birthday. ** Mr. Christianson will see the Chicago performance for the first time this year.

Interview conducted by: Hermene Hartman

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Rod - Color Image

Roderick Dixon is the star of Too Hot, Chicago's Production.

NDIGO.COM:

How did Too Hot To Handel come about?

Christianson:
The concept was Marin Alsop's when she had her first orchestra, Concordia, in NYC. She commissioned Gary Anderson and myself to re-compose and arrange a new version of "The Messiah". Both Gary and I each wrote half of the charts. We met in Marin's apartment one December, and spent a few hours deciding which parts of the Messiah to do, and what each piece's "feel" should be. Gary and I then went off to re-compose and arrange the music, and we met again the following December at the first rehearsal with charts in hand.

NDIDGO.COM It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Every year it gets better…..comments?
CHRISTIANSON
Both Gary and I wanted the piece to be something that each orchestra could "make it's own". About 4/5 of the stuff is totally written out, but there is a lot of room for the soloists to "do their thing" within the framework of the piece.

Alfreda - Color Image

Alfreda Burke, soloist of Too Hot

NDIGO.COM:

It is very significant that in Chicago it is performed to celebrate Dr. King’s Birthday. Is this important to you.?

CHRISTIANSON: Any celebration of Dr. King and his works are important to me, and the fact that Chicago performs the piece on his birthday is an honor.

NDIGO.COM

Did you intend for it to be a cross cultural endeavor?

CHRISTIANSON:To me, all music should be "a cross culture endeavor". Gary and I purposely didn't make any two pieces the exact same groove or style for just this purpose. There's gospel, blues, jazz, R&B. rock and even a little classical thrown in.

NDIGO.COM: Why did you make Handel jazzy?

CHRISTIANSON:
Marin through it was time for a fresh look at the piece, and looking back on this piece being performed for 20 years, I guess she was right!

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ALVIN WADDLES  PIANIST   TOO HOT

ALVN WADDLES, PIANIST IS A HIGHLIGHT OF THE SHOW

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TOO HOT TO HANDLE

KARIE MARIE RICHARDSON a soloist of Too Hot Too Handle

NDIGO.COM
What was your dream when you created the work? Has your dream been realized?

CHRISTIANSON: Gary and I both thought that this was just a "one-off". That Marin would perform it that first December with her orchestra, The Morgan State Choir, and soloists, and that would be the end of it. Well, Marin and her orchestra performed it for 10 years in a row at Lincoln Center, The Colorado Symphony has been doing it for 15 years; The Baltimore Symphony has performed it on a few occasions, including Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago, and you guys are having your 10th anniversary…..The piece certainly has "legs".

NDIGO.COM Would you like to see Too Hot to Handel televised?

CHRISTIANSON**:
Having just produced my second Christmas piece, "A Christmas Carol - The Concert" for PBS, I most certainly believe in the power of television, and especially in PBS. Having said that, the final say on THTH being "televised" lies with Marin.

NDIGO.COM What are your future endeavors, any new musical works in the making that you would give the Handel twist?

CHRISTIANSON:
**My second Christmas piece, "A Christmas Carol - The Concert" just had it's second nationwide airing on PBS this past December. We recorded it in Skokie at the Northshore Center during April of 2013, and it has been wildly successful on PBS. We were the #1 selling Christmas DVD on ShopPBS last year (and close to #1 this year), and we were nominated for a 2014 Primetime Emmy for "Outstanding Music & Lyrics". I'm just starting to recover from being the Composer/Arranger & Executive Producer of that…….

Year 1 2006

THE TOO HOT TOO HANDLE CHORUS

NDIGO.COM
What are your future endeavors, any new musical works in the making that you would give the Handel twist?

CHRISTIANSON: My second Christmas piece, "A Christmas Carol - The Concert" just had it's second nationwide airing on PBS this past December. We recorded it in Skokie at the Northshore Center during April of 2013, and it has been wildly successful on PBS. We were the #1 selling Christmas DVD on ShopPBS last year (and close to #1 this year), and we were nominated for a 2014 Primetime Emmy for "Outstanding Music & Lyrics". I'm just starting to recover from being the Composer/Arranger & Executive Producer of that…….

NDIGO.COM: How do the performances compare -- New York, to Chicago to Detroit? I've never heard the Chicago version of it, but with people like Rod Dixon in it, I'm sure it's great. I can't wait to hear Saturday's performance!.

NDIGO.COM.: What do you want the audience to leave with after the performance?

CHRISTIANSON: I'm a great believer in bringing new audiences to orchestra concerts, and if THTT can do that, I'm happy.

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