After a four-year absence, Detroit favorite Too Hot To Handel will return with a special performance for students on January 12, 2024, at 11am at the Detroit Opera House. The Rackham Choir’s 20th production of this exuberant, uplifting jazz-gospel take on George Frideric Handel’s Messiah takes place the Friday before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, making it ideal for celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King. Too Hot to Handel incorporates several musical styles and messages of hope and inclusion that echo Dr. King’s words of hope for peace and justice.

In addition to the Rackham Choir, the performance, under the baton of Suzanne Mallare Acton, will feature an orchestra, tenor Rodrick Dixon, soprano Alfreda Burke, and alto Karen Marie Richardson, as well as the Too Hot to Handel Trio, featuring Detroit classical, gospel and jazz musicians Marion Hayden (acoustic bass), Alvin Waddles (piano), and Dave Taylor (drums) and Joined by Al Ayoub (electric guitar), Vincent Chandler (trombone), Chris Collins (saxophone), James Simonson (bass guitar) and Walter White (trumpet).

click here for a short video:

Student tickets are available for $10 apiece, and scholarships are available.

Performance details:

When: Friday, January 12, 11 am

Where: Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit, Michigan 48226

Duration: 2.5 hours includes intermission (approximately 20 minutes during which students can eat lunch)


Rackham Choir

Too Hot to Handel Trio: Marion Hayden (acoustic bass), Alvin Waddles (piano), Dave Taylor (drums).

Alfreda Burke, soprano

Karen Marie Richardson, alto

Rodrick Dixon, tenor

Suzanne Mallare Acton, conductor 

Tickets: Group sales are for groups of 10 or more only and are available by phoning 313-237-7464 and by email to Group student tickets are $10; every reservation for 10 students comes with a free chaperone reservation. Individual student tickets are available day of show only. 

To inquire about scholarships, email Rackham Choir directly at

You can support this event! Click here and enter donation amount followed by your instructions in the text box. Here are some ways you can help:

Send 10 students to Too Hot to Handel Student Day – A donation of $100 covers the cost of 10 students and one chaperone.

Transportation Sponsorship – Transportation cost is often the biggest barrier to student attendance. A donation of $250 can transport up to 45 students.

Become a “Friend of Too Hot to Handel” – $500 or $1,000 – Become part of this special group of”Hotties” and enjoy special benefits like free tickets and parking, and post-performance visits with the artists.

Give an unrestricted gift – any amount! – No gift is too small to make a big impact! Please put us on your gift list this year.

Before the Student Performance, an updated curriculum guide, “Affirming Our Identities Through Music,” will be provided to students. The guide explores the Black experience through the lens of the various genres included in Too Hot To Handel and the perspective of some of the principal performers as people of color (POC) in the classical music world.

“Affirming Our Identities Through Music” is also a great springboard for further discussions during Black History Month in February.