I first heard Jonathan Reid Gealt perform not his own work, but the work of one of my personal favorite composers, Jason Robert Brown, at one of JRB’s concerts at the Birdland. Jonathan had won a JRB Karaoke contest, and he immediately got my attention with a rousing, matter-of-fact version of “Old Red Hills of Home.” Here is a clip apparently from a sound check before that concert:
Needless to say, I found his voice and performance to be absolutely stunning. The understated power he had brought out a side of JRB’s music that I have rarely, but always appreciatively seen in performance. The tables were then turned later, at Jim Caruso’s After Party (an open mic night regularly held at the Birdland) when Jonathan took the stage with fellow JRB Karaoke contest winner Natalie Weiss, and she performed this song from Jonathan’s show-in-progress, Forward.
The clarity of Natalie’s voice mixed with the organic progression of this song has a way of pinning you down and making you really listen. Just the combination of notes alone speaks for itself, creating voice and character without saying anything at all. And, with a title like “Quiet,” it’s hard not to see how important that concept is.
Jonathan’s music has something in common with JRB’s in its ability to take on different personalities with everyone who performs it, to bring out the best of them by infusing individual personalities and styles with a very clear message that the character needs to communicate. A wonderful example is this other version of “Quiet” done at another concert with Alysha Umphress:
Another favorite song/performance is the aforementioned “No Reason At All,” linked earlier with a stellar performance by Katie Thompson. Both of these songs come from Forward, which I am excited to see as it develops. Jonathan is also having an all star concert at The Canal Room in New York tomorrow (1/11), which looks like it will be phenomenal (not to mention that Katie Thompson and Natalie Weiss are performing). Tickets are still available here, and I highly suggest that anyone who can should go.
Also, I just realized that all the videos I’ve linked today came from Urintown’s youtube channel. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is kind of the UMich musical theatre youtube channel that contains an incredible library of performances, from readings around the city, to episodes of the hilarious Andrew’s Blog video blogs, to UMich concerts, to episodes of The Battery’s Down. I definitely recommend checking it out.