Another incredible day in Pittsburgh

In my previous blog post titled “Memorable Performance”, I had written about the first time that I attended a Jackie Evancho concert in October of 2011.  It was truly an incredible experience that I thought could not have been topped.  In that previous blog post, I expressed a desire to meet Jackie someday, but wasn’t sure if it would ever happen.  Because my current family life would be prohibitive to attend concerts beyond a reasonable driving distance, I thought that it would be quite a while before Jackie would be performing close enough again in the area.  Well, all I can say is that prayers were answered!  At the end of November, there would be an announcement of some new concert dates scheduled for Jackie to perform in December.  Pittsburgh was on that schedule for the 20th of December.  I went ahead and pitched the idea of attending the concert to my wife.  It would be our own special Christmas gift to each other.  My wife has also become a very big fan of Jackie, so she was on-board with the idea.  As soon as tickets became available, I would not hesitate again to purchase them, and I did.  This time, I decided to go all out and purchase VIP tickets for my wife and I.  These VIP tickets were not just for attending the concert; they also included the opportunity to meet Jackie Evancho in person!

Concert day – December 20th, 2011 at Pittsburgh

The day seemed to go by so fast.  My wife and I drove to Pittsburgh on the same day of the concert and arrived around 3:00 pm.  Check-in for the VIP events was at 3:30 pm, so we were doing very good with the timing of our arrival.  Unfortunately, the weather was pretty bad for the drive.  It was raining the entire time we drove to Pittsburgh.  Luckily we found a nice parking spot in the parking deck just across the street from the Benedum Center For The Performing Arts.  When we arrived at the doors, we could see some fans gathered in the outside lobby of the hall.  We went inside and the atmosphere was already electric.  It was nice to meet many of the fans that I have been corresponding with on various fan club sites.  We were all sharing our giddiness for being at the concert.

VIP Events

Soon we were given our VIP badges for the events that would take place that day.  There was a group of about 60 or 70 of us.  We were escorted into the main hall lobby.  We could hear the orchestra already rehearsing with Chrisopher Dallo — a guest artist who would be appearing on Jackie’s concert.   Christopher Dallo is an opera singer in his 20’s who was in one of the first talent shows of which Jackie Evancho had performed.  She came in second place and he won the competition.  He was really booming out his songs during rehearsal and sounded very powerful, even though we were still in the lobby.  He has an amazing voice.  Shortly later, we were briefed by a Jackie Evancho team member about how the events would unfold.  The sound-check would come first.  This consisted of being invited to witness the rehearsal.  We were not permitted to take pictures during the rehearsal, nor did they want us to applaud (I really wanted to take some pictures, but I played by the rules).  There was limited time and they did not want anything impeding the rehearsal.  Jackie was not initially on stage when we were seated in the performance hall.  After a while, she peeked out from behind the stage with her father Mike.  It was so surreal to see her up-close like that for the first time.  Soon, she walked out on stage to rehearse and gave all of us a big wave and smile.  Jackie only rehearsed one song (“O Holy Night”).  I would have hoped that Jackie would have stayed out on stage more for the rehearsal, but the remaining time was spent watching the orchestra go through each piece without her.  For me, this was still a treat, because I have never witnessed a professional orchestra of this level go through a rehearsal.  Being a volunteer musician myself, it was interesting to see how a professional orchestra rehearses.  Turns out, it is very similar to what I was accustomed to doing at rehearsals.  Once the sound-check / rehearsal was over, Jackie came out and was to the right in a small area next to the seats where we were sitting.  A chair was set up for her to sit on.  She was dressed casual, but still looked wonderful.  Jackie just lights up a room when she comes in.  We would all get to go up one row at a time to briefly (and I mean briefly) meet her and get a picture taken with her.  Jackie was all smiles and just so full of joy.  Even though it was raining outside, the sun was shining inside with Jackie’s presence.  Lisa (Jackie’s mother), and two of Jackie’s siblings (Jacob, and Rachael) were sitting back from where Jackie was located.  I did not get a chance to meet them, even though I was hoping to.  Once the Meet and Greet got started, the whole experience went by in a flash.  Before I knew it, my wife and I were next to go up. Talk about a whirlwind experience! We had about 30 seconds with Jackie, but it was 30 seconds well spent.  We said Hi and gave her a card containing a small gift for her to share with the family. I tried to explain the meaning behind it.  It was a prayer with some items pertaining to Saint Francis of Assisi.  He is a well-known in the Catholic Church for being the patron saint of animals and pets, so I thought it was a fitting gift for her since she has a lot of pets and loves animals so much.  In addition, there is a prayer that Saint Francis is known for that somehow resonates with me when it comes to Jackie:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

I wish that we could have had more time at the Meet and Greet, but I understand they were on a very tight schedule.  My wife and I were in such a daze when we met Jackie; we totally forgot to introduce our names to her.  The card we gave her had our names in it though, so I am sure she will remember us among the thousands of people she has already met…, Right?

After the Meet and Greet, we had some time to go out to eat at the Renaissance Hotel with some of the fans that we had met.  It had finally stopped raining and we were able to enjoy the walk to the hotel without getting wet.  We all met for dinner and had a really nice time talking anyway we could about Jackie. It is really amazing how much in-common we all have with each other when it comes to our thoughts about Jackie.  Soon it was time to go to the concert.  When we arrived back at the Benedum Center, we were escorted to our VIP seats.  My wife and I were in the fourth row on the end of the center Grande Circle section. The seats were perfect!  We were just to the left of the microphone stand where Jackie would be located.

Concert time – 7:30pm

The programming for the concert was exceptional!  Jackie performed some music from her “Dream With Me” CD on the first half and additionally some selections from her “Heavenly Christmas” CD and “O Holy Night” CD on the second half.  In addition, the orchestra opened up each half of the concert with an orchestral piece.  Jackie would then come out after each orchestral piece had been played.  There were some breaks in each half for Christopher Dallo to come out and perform a solo piece as well.

Each time that Jackie came out on stage, the place just lit up with everyone cheering.  One of the biggest impressions I got was how relaxed and carefree she appeared on stage.  When I first saw her at the Oct. Pittsburgh concert, I was on the first-tier balcony.  Let me say, it is a HUGE difference being at a concert when you are right up front. Jackie is just mesmerizing when you see her perform at such a close range.  It seems as though she is singing directly to you.  She makes the most amazing eye contact that I felt like she was really paying attention to everyone and giving each of us our own individual serenade.  Jackie seemed so much more in command on the stage than the first performance I saw (and she was in command at that performance too).  She held the microphone most of the time and occasionally would walk about the stage from one side to another.  She seems so naturally comfortable up on stage.  It is just spellbinding to see someone so young having such great stage presence.  I am also quite amazed at how much power she has in her voice.  She sang so beautifully, I had to wipe the tears from my eyes several times because of all of the emotions that Jackie stirs up.  Christopher Dallo also performed wonderfully as well.  Jackie gave him a nice introduction and talked about how he beat her on the talent competition they were in.  She gave him a lot of credit and told us how they were such good friends.  It was really nice to see that.  He and Jackie performed “The Prayer” as a duet. They were really incredible together.  There were some wonderful moments of friendship exchanges with them holding hands and having their arms around each other while they were singing.  It was really a sight to behold!  Here is this mid-20s opera singer performing a duet with an 11 year-old girl who is staying right with him note for note.

I felt like the crowd was really into the show. There were numerous standing ovations after each song with loud cheering and yelling.  Most of the time, the cheering would start before the orchestra had a chance to close out a piece.  Jackie gave two encores at the end as she had done in past concerts on the tour.  At the end of the last encore, I felt as though the house lights came up a little too quick and sort of quenched the applause that I think would have gone on further had they stayed down.  But, all-in-all, the crowd was definitely showing a lot of appreciation and Jackie was just eating it up.  She was waving, smiling, and giggling a lot.  It really warms my heart to see her so happy on stage like that.

There was one small glitch that I will go ahead and mention.  During Jackie’s performance of “White Christmas”, the microphone cut out on her for a while and suddenly she was without amplification.  She had to sing a bit with the mic. out of commission.  Briefly, she had a look of concern, but kept on going (just like any pro would do).  Most kids her age would probably panic in a situation like that, but Jackie held it together really well.  After about 15 or 20 seconds, the mic. was restored; Jackie gave a thumbs up and went on with the song like nothing even happened.  The crowd cheered her on in support.  When we were exiting the theater, I overheard someone talking with the audio technician about what had happened.  Somehow they lost signal with the mic., and then was able to get it back.  At first I thought that maybe Jackie had accidentally turned it off, but I don’t think that was the case, because when it came on, she was in the middle of trying to sing through it.  Based on what the technician said, it sounds like there was some interference with the wireless signal and they had to make some adjustments to get the signal back.

When the concert was over, my wife and I didn’t want to leave.  We would exchange various accolades of the concert with the people around us.  Most of us were so spellbound, we could barely speak.  I was talking with a gentleman whose voice was cracking with emotion after the show was over.  He told me how he never really liked classical music very much until he heard Jackie and now he loves it.  You could just tell how emotional everyone felt from the whole experience.

I just cannot believe how emotionally charged I am from this concert.  Jackie has such an indescribable effect.  I am so glad that I got to meet her and hope that I will get to do it again in the future.  I am thankful for living close to Pittsburgh and having had two chances to see Jackie in concert.  I keep hoping that someday she will perform in my area again.   My current family lifestyle is prohibitive to traveling very far, so as long as I can go to a concert within reasonable driving distance, I am going to make every effort to be there.  I would encourage anyone who has not seen Jackie Evancho in concert to do so.  It is an experience that is beyond words.  You have to see it for yourself in order to understand the great gift that this child has and how much she can reach out to humanity with her beautiful voice and her charming personality.

My wife and I posing with Jackie Evancho

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Craig Rasmussen
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 23:02:26

    Ken, that was a magnificent review! I tend not to read reviews of Jackie’s of Jackie’s concerts by people who were there, because I just come away wishing I was with them. I felt that way with yours, too, but you also made me feel like I WAS there.

    Cherie and I have only had a chance to see Jackie once — it was in Dallas, and it was absolutely unforgettable. Like you, we were seated in the 4th row, slightly to the left of center, right in front of Jackie, with a perfectly unobstructed view. SO, I certainly can relate to your experience.

    What I can’t relate to — yet — is meeting her face-to-face. If she ever makes it back out to Minneapolis, we will do whatever it takes to have that magical moment.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your memories and your joy.

    Craig

    Reply

    • varnk
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 01:07:06

      Thanks Craig, I appreciate the sentiments. Jackie is truly a remarkable child who just overflows with joy. I hope that you get your chance to meet her like I did. It is an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

      Reply

  2. Mr.SG. / mrsg
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 04:33:57

    Dear Ken,
    This is wonderful.
    I had set 2 , then, my computer froze, no set for me! It ‘was’ a M&G.
    I have now seen Jackie 3 times, still want a M&G.
    My best to you & yours,
    Stephen

    Reply

  3. Anonymous
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 07:09:12

    Ken……..I love your blog! This is really a first-class effort.

    Regards,

    Chuck

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Jackie Coming Home To Pittsburgh | Jackie Evancho Admirer

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