When classics & jazz singer Natalie Bancroft was in the midst of her professional studies in Switzerland and London, her grandmother declared “One day, you will perform for me at my theater.”That prophecy mostly came true: Natalie sang for her at Jackie’s 2003 memorial service held at the theater. She did so again, though, this time for music lovers at large, at a sold out concert in 2006. Now she returns with her dear friend, the renowned Italian pianist Raimondo Campisi – a rambunctious, spirited musician that Natalie endearing calls “bonkers.” The classics & jazz concert is Saturday, August 4 at 8 p.m. and features a fulsome program of beautiful music: Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Menotti, Prokofiev, Chopin, Gershwin, Bernie, Nina Simone and hit melodies like Route 66, The Man I Love, Sweet Georgia Brown, Summertime and Impossible Dream.
Excellent seats are available ($49 & $46) for this night of beautiful music. Call the Spencer Box Office at 575.336.4800 or go online to www.spencertheater.com for tickets and information.
Since her first performance at Jackie’s theater, the multi-lingual Bancroft has completed her professional studies with honors from the prestigious l’institut de Ribaupierre under Ioana Bentoiu, receiving honors for her interpretation of Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder.” She also started her own family, all the while continuing to join forces with Campisi, a recording artist twice her age. The two of them first met in France through a mutual friend in 2000, While the temperamental Campisi typically avoided working with singers - much preferring to perform solo - he and Natalie quickly hit it off. “Why don’t you try jazz,” he suggested. It was something she’d never previously considered, having focused her music studies on classics. But being a gal who loved a good challenge (it was the challenge of classical singing which prompted her to pursue her voice as her instrument of choice over a piano or violin) she began studying with him and after six months time melded her rich mezzo with his clear, warm, piano interpretations. The friends then set about touring through Europe for two years, performing both styles at nightclubs and jazz haunts. “We were performing in clubs with some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world. Many were in their 70s and 80s, so Natalie was easily the “baby” of the group “It was a tremendous experience,” she says, adding, “We’re a bit crazy doing both classics and jazz, but that makes it fun.”
In fact, the 32-year-old opera singer is one of only a handful of classically trained vocalists to also sing jazz. Perhaps the most famous and the last to regularly do so was the late Marilyn Horn. The rarity has to do with the vocal disciplines and differing physical demands of the two sophisticated styles of music.
Further distinguishing Bancroft – in addition to being Jackie’s eldest granddaughter and the sole female member of the Dow Jones/ News Corp Board of Directors --is her voice classification as a dramatic mezzo-soprano, which signifies a vocal coloring and style with great power and broad range. It is the lowest female vocal register on the classification scale, just beneath the lyric mezzo and, because of her ability to hit high notes, above contralto. It is also the rarest type of mezzo in the world.
Such a vocal register has complimented Natalie’s life-long love of Russian composers, whose works, by happenstance, tend to include the most roles for dramatic mezzos. Rachmaninoff, her favorite composer, and showcases Bancroft's dramatic mezzo-soprano. So do Prokofiev and Scriabin as well as the works of Verdi, Menotti and Saint-Saens.
Adding to that repertoire are the many jazz standards with which she and Campisi wow their listeners. They’ve been eagerly rehearsing for their Spencer gig while floating on board his floating Mediterranean home, a sail boat, which houses a piano and other musical amenities. He made the boar his home after tiring of neighbors complaining when he trilled on his piano past the midnight hour. The spirited artists typically pull out to sea to trill and sing, but since this summer has been terribly hot, they’ve kept their rehearsals at dock. “He’s got a camera installed at the end of the boat to see who’s out there. He’s also got a megaphone that he shouts into when passersby stop to peer in and see who’s singing, and barks, “Get away.” “Just wait until you meet him. He’s crazy.”
While enjoying his success performing and recording in such renowned venues as La Scala, Teatro di l’Opera in Italy, as well as on numerous radio and TV broadcasts, he has never before performed in the United States. “He is so excited,” Natalie declares.