Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thomas Hampson's Song of America Tour - GO SEE IT

Well folks, this is my first time attempting a post-performance review, so bear with me.

Last night Thomas Hampson performed at the Orchestra Hall/Max M Fisher Music Center on his Song Of America recital tour here in Detroit.

Concertgoers were serenaded by the local Detroit Performing Arts School choir in the lobby - these students had a master class with TH the day before, and they performed an alternate series of folk songs and standards from the early 20th century.

Original maunscripts and curators from the Library of Congress were there - the curators let concertgoers get very close to the manuscripts - it was fascinating to see Gershwin's original handwriting, or William Grant Still's.

I know listers want to hear about the music-making. Hampson and his accompanist, Craig Rutledge, have obviously worked together often, they have a great give-and take on the stage, and provided more than one laugh out loud moment.

Sitting in a concert hall with Hampson is akin to having him in your living room - he talks, jokes, charms and sings as if you are both sitting 3 feet from each other, and held the audience rapt. His knowledge of the history of American song is vast. Yes, it was obvious a few moments of patter were rehearsed (and stumbled through) but at one point in the second half, Hampson stepped out of the concert moment and was just himself, a person who genuinely loves the music, the history and being American. Talking to all about their own heritage through music.

Does he ever love the music. This was no sing by rote recital - phrasing was nuanced, the pianissimo phrases were feather-soft and crystal clear, the words were enunciated, driven forward, and stayed with you. The man has amazing breath control, and audience members would audibly gasp at his ability to carry the phrase.

Personally, I have never been at a recital (especially in Detroit) where the audience actually followed each phrase and meaning of the words, but Hampson's ability to sing as though he is communicating directly to each audience member makes a huge difference.

I was also happy to see a less typical concertgoing audience - the full range of ages, races and income diversity were present, and I do genuinely believe Hampson made some converts to an appreciation of concert song that evening.

My seat-mate had never attended any classical concert before, and came away humming and full of ideas, so for those of you who bemoan the audiences that are usually in attendance, try to catch this concert in one of its other cities:

Kravis Center, West Palm Beach FL
Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oxford, MS
Symphony Center, Chicago, IL
Holland Center Concert Hall, Omaha, NE
California Theatre, San Jose, CA

Well all I can say in closing is - please try to attend. Ok, let me correct that. RUN, don't walk. You will be glad you did.

More info at


Blogger Dima said...

Ooh, I'm going to have to check when he'll be in Chicago and see if I can make it. He's adorable, especially for his age.

10:33 AM  
Blogger eclectic said...

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Hampson's alma mater, Walla Walla College in 92 when he returned there for a recital. Because of his personal interest in the select choir, he attended our rehearsal session, and stayed to talk with us personally afterward. What a presence! He is a gifted and passionate musician with a resonance unparalleled, IMO. I really appreciate this post of yours!

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Hampson is so nice--he stayed for 50 minutes or more after the Song of America recital in Detroit to meet and greet people, sign autographs, and answer questions. Did you know he was student body president 1977 at Eastern Washington University and his bachelor's degree is in Political Science? He used to play tuba. I am happy he did does not practice law. His website is great His Hampsong Foundation does so much good in music education.

1:01 PM  
Blogger whfropera said...

Actually, he did talk about that in the interview - and had some funny/great anecdotes about Walla Walla.
Aren't we all glad he didn't go into polysci?

3:36 PM  

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