A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Sep 23, 2013
01:33 PMClassically Speaking
UW Music Brings Homecoming a Little Early
Sometimes a concert is less about “performing” and more about simply sharing one’s gifts in an atmosphere of gratitude and joy. That is exactly what a very full Mills Hall audience received Sunday evening from baritone Nathaniel Stampley and accompanist Jamie Schmidt.
In a program titled “The Contemporary American Songbook* (*mostly),” the longtime friends and collaborators poured out an inviting mixture of Broadway, Gershwin and Cole Porter, with a Mozart aria thrown in for good measure. Along the way they were full of amusing anecdotes, with both speaking and playing/singing tinged with an “aren’t we lucky to be here” flavor.
Stampley could be the quintessential late bloomer: Now thirty-nine, he only finished up his BM at UW–Madison under Mimmi Fuller in 2008. But he never lost faith in his genuine gift of a baritone voice that combines silkiness, with an unruffled delivery. His persistence has certainly paid off—along with a number of substantial Broadway credits on his resume, he is about to take the title role in the national touring company of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.
Jamie Schmidt is also a product of UW, completing two degrees here and working with a veritable “who’s who” list of Broadway stars over the last decade or so. His musical partnership with Stampley bears all the evidence of two artists who share not only congruent interpretive approaches, but a basic impulse to share their music in a most unpretentious and warm fashion.
After a suave “On Broadway” opening, Stampley delivered an “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” in a gentle, pastoral approach. Stampley also offered the kind of debonair smoothness one associates with the stage and film musicals of the 1930s in “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Bidin’ My Time” (from Gershwin’s 1930 Girl Crazy) and “Little Gray House” from Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars.
Schmidt, well known for his talent as an arranger, gave us a couple of samples in the “They Can’t Take Away from Me” and “Beautiful Mornin’” and credited Andrew Gerle for a fabulously understated version of “The Impossible Dream.” Schmidt also gave us the long opening solo of Ragtime, interspersed with his own all-too-memorable recollection of the 2009 opening night of the show at the Kennedy Center.
Aside from Broadway and its musical cousins, Stampley closed the first half with one of the Count’s arias from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro—leaving one wanting to see him in that role at this stage of his vocal and acting maturity. Another highlight was the a cappella spiritual “Up Above My Head.”
But it wouldn’t have been complete without something from Porgy and Bess, so Stampley saved the best for last, bringing another friend onstage, soprano Melissa Hinz, for a sweet, and all too short “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” The closest stop of his national tour is the Twin Cities…and a road trip is highly recommended.