WOODLAWN — Chicago’s oldest choir will perform a free concert at the Apostolic Church of God on Sunday.
Since 1879, the Apollo Chorus has never failed to perform Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” the iconic choral work on the life of Jesus Christ, and the choir will not miss the opportunity to perform the piece for the opening of its 2014 season at the church, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave.
“This is a chance for us to introduce ourselves to the congregation and the community, and that is our calling card,” said Stephen Alltop, conductor and music director of the chorus.
Alltop said it’s hard to imagine that the chorus has not performed in Woodlawn since it sang at the opening of World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, but it is overdue for a return to the neighborhood.
“We’ve performed nearby in Hyde Park at Rockefeller Chapel, but not in Woodlawn,” Alltop said.
He said the chorus of 120 singers will present some standards like Handel and Mozart, but will also introduce Woodlawn audiences to some contemporary choral composers that he thinks will resonate with modern audiences.
“Little Man in a Hurry,” by composer Eric Whitacre, sets to music E.E. Cummings’ poem about the increasingly frantic pace of modern life.
“I can’t think of a poem that’s more important to people today,” Alltop said, adding that it ends on an important reminder to break free of the mania of modern life and relax.
He said the piece appropriately introduces bleak themes of loneliness that carry through to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” one of the pieces of popular music the chorus has begun to incorporate into performances.
“We have really pushed the limits and identity of the chorus in the last decade,” Alltop said.
Alltop encouraged people to come out and experience in person what is likely to be the choir’s only free performances of the season.
“When you listen to something on an iPod or your car stereo, you’re getting a filtered version,” Alltop said. “When you hear the Apollo Chorus live, you get the energy in four dimensions — there is just no substitute for a live performance.”
The Apollo Chorus will return to the South Side on Feb. 22 for a performance of choral classics by Mozart and Dvorak at Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Tickets will be $30.