Jackie Gives Her All at Heinz Hall

20150213_210052[1]Recently I had the good fortune of attending another Jackie Evancho concert at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA on February 13, 2015.  And, once again Jackie never ceases to impress me.

Since returning home from Jackie’s concert I have been trying to process the experience and put it into words.  Jackie’s concerts always seem to put me into a euphoric fog afterwards and it can be a bit of a challenge to adequately describe the experience, but I will give it my best shot.

This was the first time I had seen Jackie perform live in-concert since attending her Awakening PBS special recording at Longwood Gardens (See my blog post of that concert by clicking here).  The Longwood Gardens concert was a magnificent experience, but it was not a typical concert setting since it was being recorded for TV.  At Longwood there were re-takes, setup shots, producer announcements, and various other TV production necessities.  The concert at Heinz Hall would be more of a traditional concert than the PBS filming at Longwood.  At Longwood, Jackie performed with a studio pick-up orchestra and electronic audio tracks.  At Heinz Hall, Jackie would be performing with members of a major symphony orchestra – the renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO).  I knew this would be a very special concert because of that.  In addition, Karin Hendrickson would be debuting as a guest conductor for the first time with the PSO.  Before I go on with my impressions of the Heinz Hall concert I just want to say that Karin did a tremendous job conducting.  I really hope that she and Jackie will work together again in the future.  Karin was very attentive in showcasing Jackie in the best possible way.  In addition, she had great interaction with the audience too.  It was a unique opportunity for Jackie to perform in such a prestigious setting with the PSO, an event that I am grateful to have been able to witness.

The tradition of fans meeting for dinner before the concert was upheld.  Many fans like myself have corresponded on-line or met at various concerts.  It is always a treat to meet up with fans to build our enthusiasm for the upcoming concert that we are about to attend.  We met at Braddock’s restaurant in the Renaissance hotel just sightly down the road from Heinz Hall.  The setting was great!  We had the entire upstairs room of the restaurant for our gathering.  There were posters and banners of Jackie on the walls, a large video screen playing the Awakening PBS broadcast, customized menus with Jackie’s name on them, buttons,  and name-tags containing pictures of Jackie on them.  It was awesome to reconnect with some fans whom I’ve met before at past concerts, as well as meet some fans whom I have only corresponded with on-line.  It is great to be among a group of people who “get it” when it comes to Jackie.  We all come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but we all have that one common thread with Jackie that binds us together.  It is a very special relationship that we all have.

Custom menu at Jackie Evancho fan gathering.  Notice the Fan Club banner at the top of the menu.


Button passed out at the Heinz Hall fan gathering.

The weather in Pittsburgh was bitterly cold, but the skies were clear and sunny.   Thank God the concert was on that Friday, because area weather the following day was downright bad!  I only live 2 hours west of Pittsburgh and we had a big snowstorm that following day with temperatures dropping into single digits.  Thankfully we avoided all of that on Friday even though it was very cold outside.

For me, Pittsburgh concerts are extra special because the concert is at Jackie’s home-turf and many of her family and friends come to see her too.  I could see many familiar faces of family members and friends of Jackie whom I’ve seen before in videos and pictures that have been shared with fans.  There were several opportunities where I could have approached family members, but I chose to respect their privacy and let them be.  It is great that Jackie has such a supportive family.

The stage and the venue looked very elegant.  I cannot say for sure if the entire Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was there at the concert, but it appeared as though it was mostly a full orchestra – a real treat for sure!  The atmosphere of excitement throughout the concert hall was strong.

My wife and I had seats in the second row just slightly to the left of Jackie’s microphone stand.  Excellent seats for sure!  I knew this concert was going be great just by the atmosphere alone.  Soon the lights dimmed, the orchestra tuned to the concert master, and out walks the conductor – Karin Hendrickson (mentioned earlier).  The orchestra opened the concert with the Intermezzo to Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni.  It is a lovely set-up piece for Jackie and the orchestra performed it beautifully!  The orchestra would perform a total of 3 pieces without Jackie during various parts of the concert.  This also included the themes from Pirates of The Caribbean, and Jurassic Park.  Although these are hardly the demanding pieces that an orchestra of the caliber of the PSO normally plays, they did a splendid job with them and the audience was very receptive.

When Jackie came out on stage for the first time, she was wearing a beautiful blue dress that almost had a peacock-like appearance to it.  It had shimmers down the one side of it with various colors of blue mixed in.  Unfortunately there was no photography permitted so I wasn’t able to get any pictures of Jackie.  The opening song that Jackie performed was “Take Me There.”  At first I thought the orchestra took the tempo a little slower than what I was accustomed to hearing on the Awakening CD, but it really didn’t matter.  Jackie followed along and sang with a lot of energy.  At times I felt like the orchestra was slightly over-powering of Jackie – possibly due to some balance issues with the amplification system that was used.  In addition, Jackie admitted that she was fighting a cold, but she was determined that she was going to put this concert on for her home crowd.  In the first half of the concert it would have been impossible to tell that Jackie was even fighting a cold.  We kept saying that if she sounded that good with a cold, imagine how she would sound without it.  She was incredible!

I absolutely love the way Jackie interacts with the audience.  She treats the audience like individuals and talks as if she is speaking to each of us personally.  Her on-stage banter never seems artificial or staged.  She just rolls with the moment and shares her thoughts with the audience in such a way that you almost feel like she is carrying on a conversation like she knows us personally.  It is really quite special!

For me, in many ways each song is literally breathtaking to hear Jackie sing live.  I lose myself in her music and I can tell that she does the same by the expression on her face.  I find myself taking a big sigh after a song completes, almost as if I forgot to breath while Jackie sings.  It is easy to see that Jackie loves performing for the home crowd even though she admitted to being extra nervous because many of her family and friends were in attendance.  If Jackie was nervous it was impossible to tell.  She had no need to worry as she appeared very confident in spite of her admitted nerves.  The hometown audience was giving Jackie a lot of love back too with many gestures of encouragement.

In the second half, Jackie wore a gorgeous red dress that I hadn’t seen before that was absolutely stunning!   In the latter part of the second half of the concert it was obvious that the cold was taking a toll on Jackie.  About a third of the way into the second half Jackie sang a rousing performance of “With Or Without You” – inviting the audience to clap and dance along.  She had us all clapping along and even some people were dancing in the aisles.  The energy was high!  However, immediately after she finished singing that song, the cold illness started to strike and she let out a little cough.  Jackie would fight against coughing attacks throughout the remainder of the concert.  Yet, through it all, she kept her composure and remained steadfast in her performance and still continued to hit all of her pitches beautifully.  It was inspirational and impressive beyond belief that she could push through such adversity for the benefit of her fans.  I can add a new level of appreciation for Jackie to my list.  She has my deepest and utmost respect for pushing on like that.  Anyone else would have panicked and given up.  Instead, Jackie made light of the whole situation to put us at ease and to push onward.  The song she struggled with the most was “Music Of The Night” towards the end of the concert.  She tried her hardest to hold off the coughs, but missed a couple of entrances because of it.   The conductor (Karin) did a wonderful job with being attentive to Jackie and keeping the orchestra with her.  When Jackie reached the end of the regular program with Think of Me, she had forgotten to announce that it was the final song and the audience did not know that it was the final song.  However when she finished the song, it was so good that the audience gave her an enthusiastic standing ovation throughout the theater.  It was magical!  Jackie triumphed, and the audience knew it!  Jackie stayed out on stage and told us that she wanted to do one more song for us, but that she needed a minute to go back stage (probably to try to alleviate her cough).  When she came out, she sang an encore of “The Lord’s Prayer.”  Jackie sang this song about as beautiful as I have heard her sing it.  I must say that I was offering up prayers for Jackie while she sang this song/prayer, and deep in my heart and soul I know that God helped pull her through it.  I can’t even describe the emotions that were running through me when the concert was over.  It was heart-wrenching at times to know that Jackie had to struggle so much because of her illness and yet it was inspiring beyond belief that she handled it so amazingly!

I hope that Jackie knows how much her performance at Heinz Hall meant to so many of us.  As a fan I am tremendously proud of how Jackie handled the whole situation.  Hard to believe she is  only 14 years-old.  She is a consummate professional beyond her years.

Thank you Jackie!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alec Ludlow
    Feb 18, 2015 @ 10:28:38

    A fine review Ken, as befits our superstar. She is much loved by us all.


  2. Catherine Novak
    Feb 19, 2015 @ 08:01:24

    Excellent review! You express it so well. Jackie left us all awestruck and spellbound, and fully amazed at her tenacity and charm. So proud of her that she is not a quitter and that she is so completely devoted to her fans, as we fans are of her. Finally got to meet some of her fans. The whole evening was wonderful.


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