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WGN Radio Morning News
The Apollo Chorus has been performing this glorious masterpiece for Chicago since 1879, a track record unmatched in the city of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune hailed our 2012 performance as a "venerable holiday tradition" performed with "an exultant spirit that came from the heart." In 1907, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center became Apollo's anchor for this annual performance. Since 2000, Apollo has performed the entire score, half of it from memory. Musical Conductor Stephen Alltop conducts the entire piece from memory and without a score.
Reviews and Commendations:
John von Rhein from the Chicago Tribune has called the performance “Spirited!” and said “The oldest musical organization in Chicago has much to sing ‘hallelujah’ about.” Lin Brehmer from WXRT raved that Apollo’s version of Handel’s “Messiah” is “An afternoon I will cherish long after this holiday season has come and gone.” See below for recent reviews.
2014 Chicago Sun-Times Feature of Apollo's annual Messiah performance:
“It has a very similar flow to an opera and we try to emphasis dramatic elements of the piece,” says Alltop, when asked how to keep the piece “fresh” after over a century of performances. “To make the best possible connection to the audience, the chorus performs a majority of ‘Messiah’ by heart. And that’s pretty unusual in that it takes a lot of training and preparation to be able to do that. You can get more eye contact and there’s something that in a way, goes beyond what we can describe about how wonderful that is.”
2014 Chicago Stage Standard Review:
Maestro Alltop showed his eighteen years of experience with a sensitivity to the orchestra, the chorus and the soloists. The orchestra is full of top-notch performers who are able to give a full sound with minimal forces. For the full house of orchestra hall, the main attraction was the chorus. The Apollo Chorus features 120 volunteer members that work hard to uphold their status as an iconic Chicago ensemble. The ability of this chorus shows why they are a lasting establishment in Chicago.
2014 Review in Stage and Cinema:
"Alltop brings a disciplined, confident brio with a brisk but never hurried pace to the 160-minute work—so many good tidings from 273 years ago. Dressed in black but as colorful as four voices can range, the chorus proved flawless in attack, diction, blend, precision, dynamics, and range, achieving hushed reverence and remorse in “Behold the Lamb of God” and full-throated glory in the “Hallelujah Chorus.” As for the unimprovable orchestra, the “Pastoral Symphony” never sounded so tender or “The Trumpet Shall Sound” more triumphant in its Handelian magnificence. Wonderful turns by concertmaster Jeri-Lou Zike and principal trumpet Chris Hassselbring were manna for the master."
2014 Chicago Critic Review:
"Apollo made use of their power to fill a massive space without sacrificing nuance."
2014 Lincoln Park Patch review:
"The Apollo Chorus—composed of over one hundred auditioned volunteer members—is as professional as they come with their own special flair. It was a pleasure to watch teachers, lawyers, and other “every-day” people come together and create a tear-jerking experience. Listening to the “Hallelujah Chorus” was as invigorating as cheering during the Blackhawks’ National Anthem or looking at fireworks from Navy Pier. It is really something to be part of a tradition that began with King George of England over 250 years ago."
2014 New City review by Aaron Hunt:
"... Alltop's unbroken track record for training his chorus to express such varieties of style and color that it rivals any other in the city."
2013 LASPLASH review:
"...It is probably clichéd at this point for those who have seen them, particularly in performance of this work, to commend their talent, their effort, and their cohesion in singing, but just because excellence is routine or expected, it should not be taken as commonplace...Apollo deserves a hearty commendation."