The CultureMap Interview
Rocking Handel's grave: Mike Eldred gets taken higher as SPA spins a holidayclassic
When it comes to Handel's Messiah this holiday season, music lovers have many choices, including, for the first time, the Broadway extravaganza Handel'sMessiah Rocks, presented by Society for the Performing Arts, Wednesday night at Jones Hall.
Big topics like the mystery of faith, the power of love, and the hope for peace are explored though fabulous singing, an orchestra, a rock band, fancy lights, video projections and two local choirs. Handel's Messiah Rocks is the brainchild of director Dani Davis and composer Jason Howland. Members of Wildfish Theatre Company, West Orange-Stark High School A Cappella Choir and Lamar University Cardinal Singers join the Houston cast.
The show is a concert and rock show all rolled into one. Broadway veteran Mike Eldred, simply named as "The Tenor" in the show, explains it all to CultureMap.
CultureMap: I can't help myself. What would Handel think? Would he be rolling in his grave?
Mike Eldred: He would be rocking in his grave. He's rolling to the rhythm. I love that question. The Messiah does not need to be improved upon, that's not what this show is about.
But, If I were Handel, I would be thrilled that my piece is still generating new musical ideas. Music is a living, breathing and evolving thing.
CM: Houston has Messiahs busting out all over the place. Why should we go to one that rocks?
ME: Because it's like nothing you have ever seen before. It's 90 minutes of non-stop energy. It's exciting, filled with audience participation and good rock music. It's not the Messiah that you know and love.
Although there are some of the same song titles and familiar tunes, it's really something different. The set is minimalist with a huge video screen. The design of the show is brilliant. I don't want to give too much away, but the video is so good that I want to turn around and look at it when I am on stage.
Think energetic rock takes on the Messiah.
CM: With a role called "The Tenor" I am going to assume you are classically trained. Is that the case?
ME: I thank God for my classical training because the role really stretches me vocally. It's the highest singing I have ever done. If you think about it, classic rock from the '70s and '80s was pretty high pitched.
I majored in voice at Stephen F. Austin, but left to tour with a Christian rock band, then accidently ended up on Broadway. Now I am singing with symphony orchestras.
CM: So you have Texas roots? Will you come to sing with our orchestra?
ME: Some day, I hope to. Yes, I have Houston area roots. I went to middle and high school in Lake Jackson. In fact, I am dedicating my performance to my late music teacher John Magee, my choir teacher at Brazoswood High School, who taught me the Messiah. I have all kinds of friends who I have not seen in 20 years coming to see the show.
CM: Well then, you better be good. Should we expect a rousing Hallelujah?
ME: Absolutely. Believe it. And expect to be on your feet singing along. I spend a good part of the show actually in the audience.
Trust me. it's like nothing you have seen before. I have fallen in love with this show and audiences seem to have as well, at least they look like they have when they leave. The message of the show is about peace on Earth. Music is a major force for peace.
Watch Handel Rock Out: