An evening with Jackie Evancho at Chautauqua

My wife and I had the good fortune of attending the Jackie Evancho concert this past Friday (8/8/14) at the Chautauqua Institute concert hall.  The following blog post is a report of my experience attending the concert.

We started the 3 hour drive to Chautauqua, NY on the day of the concert, arriving at the Chautauqua Suites hotel around 1:00 pm.  Right away we met several Jackie Evancho fans.  Even though none of us have met personally before, it felt like we knew each other well because of the connection that we have to Jackie Evancho’s fan club and various online forums.  Soon more Jackie fans showed up in the lobby and we had a lot of pleasant conversations about our common bond to Jackie Evancho.  The location of the hotel was only about a mile from Andriaccios restaurant, where we would have the traditional fan gathering that takes place before Jackie concerts.  My wife and I couldn’t check into our hotel until 3:00 pm, so we decided to drive to the 2:00 pm fan gathering, stay there for about an hour or so, and then drive back to the hotel to check-in and change into our concert attire.  When we arrived at the fan gathering it was wonderful to see so many excited fans.  About 25 of us showed up for the gathering.  There were even a few fans who came from outside the US to see the concert.  One fan came from Germany and two others came from the United Kingdom just to see Jackie perform.  Now that is dedication!  It was a pleasure to meet them and to talk with him.  It truly amazes me that people would travel that far to see Jackie sing, but at the same time realizing just how special it is that I only had about a three-hour drive to see Jackie.  It made me realize just how lucky I am that I didn’t have to travel that far for the Chautauqua concert.  The people from outside of the US have my utmost respect for their dedication to Jackie.  They are really wonderful fans as are all of Jackie’s fans.

After my wife and I returned to the hotel to check-in, we drove to the Chautauqua grounds just a bit before 4:00pm. Our concert tickets included the gate fee to get in to the grounds at 4:00pm. So that worked out really well. I had a parking ticket to park in the main parking lot right across from the entrance to Chautauqua. The parking lot was huge and we circled for a while trying to find a place to park. I was amazed at how full the lot was! Were all these cars there just for the Jackie concert? We were getting a bit worried that we may not get good seats if that many people were there already. We had to drive all the way to the back overflow lot to park. Luckily there was a shuttle service that would shuttle people in from the parking lot right up to the main gate. This was the first time we had ever been to Chautauqua. The grounds are very picturesque. It is a quaint vacation village of sorts with cottages, shops, and beautiful flower gardens. Lots of nice people too. It was a very scenic and family friendly environment. We really enjoyed walking around the place, but our first priority was to locate the concert hall to scope it out and see how many people were waiting to get in. We really didn’t know what to expect as far as how hard it would be to get good seats since they were first-come-first-serve. We did have the seating upgrade option, but it included a rather large section. We wanted to get within the first several rows if possible. Turns out our fears were unnecessary. We were there with plenty of time to spare. No lines were forming just yet.

The concert hall is an open-air venue with a roof on top.  The seats were similar to pews that you would find in a church. Many of us fans were gathered before the concert around the side of the venue and we could see directly into the hall.  The orchestra was rehearsing and at some point we knew that Jackie would probably come out to rehearse with them.  My wife and I walked around the concert hall towards the back and we saw where Jackie’s tour bus was parked.  There was no sign of Jackie or her family.  The backstage area of the theater was fairly exposed.  We could see people milling around behind the stage, but once again there was no sign of anyone familiar on Jackie’s team.  My wife and I strolled around a little more to take in the sights of the surroundings.  The lake was situated behind the concert hall so we strolled down there to take in the view.  I guess someone had spotted the Evancho kids playing on the hillside near there, but my wife and I didn’t see them;  Thus, I cannot confirm or deny that sighting.  Later we walked up to the hall to make sure that a crowd wasn’t forming around the venue.  Soon, we heard the familiar voice of Jackie rehearsing the song “Imaginer” with the orchestra.  It was a bit hard to see her because the sun was bright and the stage was shadowed.  We could see that there were several kids who hopped up on stage with Jackie and then surrounded her while she sang.  It appeared as though some of the kids were Jackie’s siblings (Jacob, Zachary, and Rachel), plus a couple of other kids too.  It appeared as though they were maybe trying to shield Jackie from being video recorded.  Jackie’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers and could be heard throughout the area as she sang.  She sounded wonderful!  I will say that it was very exciting to be able to witness the rehearsal.  The last time I had seen Jackie rehearse was in Pittsburgh back in 2011 as part of the VIP M&G package.  So this was a real treat in itself!

A few people were starting to form a line at around 6:30 pm, so we staked out our spot in line at the entrance near the front of the stage.  We had quite a bit of time to kill before we would get let into the hall at around 7:30 pm.  My wife and I were standing in line with two ladies in front of us who had never been to a Jackie concert before.  They remembered her from America’s Got Talent (AGT) and they thought it would be nice to see her perform.  Of course, I gave them the whole rundown of Jackie and all the history behind these past several years that followed AGT.  I told them that they were in for one of the best concert experiences ever.  Another man walked over from one of the cottages across from the venue and asked us what was going on at the concert hall tonight.  He was amazed at how many people were starting to form around the concert hall.  He asked me, “Was there some big-name show that night?”  I asked him if he had heard of Jackie Evancho.  He replied, “Who is that?”  I then asked him if he ever watched America’s Got Talent.  He replied, “Never heard of it.”  At that point I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was up to the challenge.  I proceeded to tell him all about Jackie and the history behind her tremendous voice.  He became interested rather quickly and said that he and his family would listen to the concert from their front porch, which had a direct view of the stage.  It would have been interesting to have been able to speak with them after the concert to see their reaction.

As 7:30 pm approached, the gates to the concert hall opened.  We entered and gingerly stepped down some steep inclines to get to the front rows of the theater.  It wasn’t a mad scramble, but we had to act quickly to get good seats.  The first two rows filled up fast, but the 3rd row was open just to the left of the podium.  That was my preferred location anyhow.  Jackie would be directly in front of us.  You can’t ask for better than that!  The concert hall started to fill rapidly and soon it became apparent that this crowd was going to be BIG!  We asked one of the ushers about the capacity of the hall.  She said it could hold approximately 5000, not including the overflow seats or the seats above and behind the stage.  Not only did the venue fill up to capacity, but so did the overflow seats and several seats in the area behind the stage.  By 8:00 pm, the concert hall was packed and we still had 15 minutes to go before the start of the show.  This was a much larger crowd than I had ever seen at a solo concert by Jackie.  I noticed that some kids came out from behind stage with the unmistakable Meet and Greet (M&G) badges.  It looked as though there may have been a private M&G for those kids.  I am sure it was a thrill for them to get to meet Jackie.  I can certainly attest to that from past experiences meeting her.

Soon the show would begin.  The orchestra seemed a bit small compared to other concerts that I have been to, but it may have just been how I perceived it.  It was hard to tell where Jackie would be entering the stage.  There was a door on each side of the stage and one in the center behind the stage.  When Jackie’s conductor John Mario came in, he entered in the center door at the rear of the stage. That is also where Jackie would come in after the orchestra opened with “Cavalleria Rusticana” which is the perfect setup piece for her.  Jackie was wearing her beautiful turquoise dress and she looked fabulous!  She informed the audience that she loved the dress because it made her feel like a superstar and that it reminded her of a dress in the movie Frozen.  Unfortunately there were strict rules at this concert about taking photos or videos, so I kept in-line with the rules and did not get any videos or pictures.  Jackie opened the concert with the familiar song “When You Wish Upon A Star.”  I will admit that before the concert started I was a bit disappointed that no new songs from her upcoming Awakening CD (due to be released this September 23rd, 2014) would be performed based on what was reported from her previous concert in Portsmouth just two days earlier.  However, once I heard Jackie start to sing, I realized that it didn’t matter.  Just hearing that marvelous voice live again meant the world to me and it re-invigorated my love for her music.  Besides, I will be attending her upcoming PBS concert filming at Longwood Gardens in the next two weeks (August 21st, 2014) where new songs will be performed.

Now, about the Chautauqua concert itself. I will admit that Jackie probably did not have her “A” game on a couple of songs. She sort of had a brain blank-out when she sang Some Enchanted Evening when she missed an entrance on one of the verses.  She got a little flustered and said something like, “Sorry, this happens all the time.”  She did recover and finished the song as any true professional would.  We in the front rows gave her a standing ovation for support.  In my personal opinion, since Jackie has done so many flawless performances, she has earned the right to several mulligans here and there.  No big deal if you ask me.  All performers make mistakes.   I know that I have made many myself.  The only advice I would give Jackie is to not let your audience know when it happens.  In the second half, there was one other slight miscue in the song Lovers, but that was much less obvious.  I don’t want to make a big deal over this, but I just wanted to mention it to be thorough in my report.  One song that really hit me emotionally was The Lord’s Prayer.  Because Chautauqua is primarily a Christian community, and knowing that probably the majority of the audience had probably heard that song sung by other singers countless times, I couldn’t help but wonder what the residents must have thought when Jackie sang it.  I know I have never heard anyone sing The Lord’s Prayer as beautifully as Jackie.  The moment she sang it I could feel the usual uncontrollable tears welling up in my eyes. I know how much this song means to me and likely meant to the community there as well.  I also think it means a lot to Jackie too.

Soon it was intermission – the time to talk with people around me to see what they thought about the concert so far.  One gentleman who sat directly behind me had never seen Jackie before and was totally in awe at what he heard in the first half.  He told me that after hearing her sing he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.  He said he entered the concert hall with a bit of skepticism, but now he understands why she has such a faithful fan following.  Many people during intermission told us how they were impressed that Jackie’s fans were so faithful to her and how much they admired the appreciation that we showed her.

Soon the second half would start. Jackie opened with the song “Lovers,” and aside from the slight miscue at the beginning that I mentioned earlier, she was terrific!  She wore a beautiful cream-colored dress that glistened in the spotlights.  As the second half went on, it was almost as if Jackie’s voice was getting more confident and stronger.  The closer we got to the end of the second half, the more her voice seemed to be on fire!  Her high notes and low notes (as well as the notes in-between) were outstanding!  So pure, and yet so powerful!  When she got to the last piece (The Impossible Dream), she dedicated it to her mother (Lisa), saying how much she loved her and that she was the best mom.  Kudos to Lisa for sacrificing so much so that Jackie can live out “The Impossible Dream.”  Also, Jackie dedicated the song “What a Wonderful World” to her father (Mike) during the first half of the concert.  She indicated that the song means a lot to him and that it makes him cry, but that they are tears of joy.  Don’t worry Mike, it happens to the best of us.  Jackie finished with two encores (O Mio Babino Cairo and Music of The Night). Both songs were extraordinary!  You could tell that Jackie’s voice was really running on full throttle during those songs.  Her confidence was rock solid in the second half and it seemed almost as if her voice became stronger at the end of the concert and  that she probably would have continued singing if there was more music on the set list.

In between songs, Jackie was very jovial with the audience.  One thing that she kept mentioning was that she saw a spider (either backstage or on stage – not sure).  She kept mentioning the spider between songs and said that it had a beautiful web, however she was also very afraid of spiders.  One person close to the front said she should squish it, and she said, “Oh no I could never do that, the spider is my new pet named Chico!”  It was funny how she made light banter with the audience at times.  The comment was also true to form in regards to her respect for all living things, even spiders that frighten her.  Jackie also seemed very attentive to someone on her left in the front.  I couldn’t tell for sure who it was, but Jackie smiled and waved in that direction a few times.  I was told that there was a little girl sitting there with a Jackie doll, but I couldn’t see her from where I was sitting.

After the concert, many of us fans gathered at the Chautauqua Suites hotel bar to have our post-concert recap.  We talked until after 1:00 am about all of our Jackie fan experiences.  It is really great to be in a room with a people who have that common bond that Jackie helped us to form.  I truly loved every minute of the day and cannot wait until the next concert and PBS taping of Awakening at Longwood Gardens on August 21st, 2014.  I will be there and will provide another blog post of that concert experience as well.

You can pre-order Jackie’s upcoming Awakening CD at the following link:

http://www.jackieevancho.com/awakening

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bob bartko
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 22:12:22

    Nice job Ken. This being my 5th concert was the best ever . Her warm-up of “Imaginer” was simply stunning . I will never forget the sound that came from this beautiful petite teen.

    Reply

  2. Anonymous
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 00:17:17

    Thanks for the report, Ken. Good job. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to another of her concerts in the near future, though no plans.

    Reply

  3. Craig O'Brien
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 07:04:48

    Great story. Jackie is phenomenal. No one like her ever. Thanks for the post. Can’t wait to hear about Longwood. Wish I could be there.

    Reply

  4. George Thomas
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 08:11:47

    Thanks Ken for ‘reporting’ on Jackie’s Chautauqua Concert! I enjoyed it thoroughly, you a very good writer.

    Reply

  5. Bert Dirt
    Aug 13, 2014 @ 04:52:00

    Thanks bob, enjoyed your perspective, and you taking the time to share.

    Reply

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