Cleveland Concert Review

screenshot_2016-10-10-09-30-56This past Saturday (October 8th, 2016), I had the pleasure of attending another Jackie Evancho concert at Cleveland Playhouse Square Ohio Theater.  This would be my 9th Jackie concert to date.  I had also attended Jackie’s performance at Cleveland Playhouse Square Palace Theater back in 2013 when she was 13 years old.  I was very happy that the now 16 year old Jackie came back to Playhouse Square for another concert since this is very close to home for me.  The entire Playhouse Square performing arts district in Cleveland is a wonderful collection of theaters and is the largest performing arts center outside of New York City (as is claimed on the Playhouse Square Wikipedia page).  The Ohio Theater is a beautiful venue and I was told by the staff that it had just recently been renovated this past year (2016).  It is a smaller theater compared to the Palace.  Ohio theater has a capacity of 1000 seats compared to the Palace at roughly around 2700 seats.  My wife and I had 3rd row seats in the Center Orchestra section of the theater.  This has always been one of my favorite places to sit for a Jackie concert.  Unfortunately there was no photography or video recording permitted for this concert so I do not have any media to share in that regard.

One of the first things that I noticed regarding this concert was that there wasn’t a live orchestra present to accompany Jackie.  Instead, the stage was set with a piano, assorted candles and various flower bouquets coupled with subdued lighting.  I could tell that this was going to be a different experience from other Jackie concerts I have attended.  The last time I saw Jackie perform was in 2015 at Pittsburgh.  The entire Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was there to accompany her at that concert, so it was a stark contrast to see the stage set in a very minimalistic way with no orchestra for the Cleveland concert.  Although Jackie is more than capable of singing amazingly no matter who is accompanying her, I have to admit that I was hoping to see her perform with orchestra again.  There is a certain grandeur to see Jackie as the feature artist with an orchestra.  I must say that I did miss that.  For this concert, Jackie would be accompanied solely by her music director Peter Kiesewalter.  Peter uses an array of computer-managed backing tracks with his piano playing to provided the accompaniment for Jackie.  It is an interesting setup and I often wonder how it is all coordinated.  It does work well, but I think there is something amiss to not have a contingency of live musicians as the source of the accompaniment.  After-all, that is the reason it is called a live show.  But, one can say that Jackie is the main attraction and the absence of a live orchestral accompaniment puts the focus more on her.  The backing-track sound system gives the effect of live accompaniment and Peter does a great job coordinating his playing with Jackie and the backing-tracks.  I can’t say that I am completely in favor of this new setup, but it was still a treat to be able to see Jackie perform live.

There was one aspect of the concert that was a disappointment for me.  Considering that the Ohio Theater is a 1000 seat venue, I would estimate that there was probably only around three to four hundred in attendance.  This was probably one of the lowest-attended Jackie concerts I have ever been to.  It was heartbreaking to see such a small crowd show up for such a talented singer like Jackie.  I don’t know if something went awry with the promotion of this concert, but I can’t fathom why more people wouldn’t show up to hear Jackie sing.  Maybe the recognition of her accomplishment on AGT has faded from the memories of the people who once attended her concerts in the past.  Or maybe the novelty of seeing a younger Jackie was more of a draw than an older teenage Jackie.  I don’t think any reason is good enough, because hearing Jackie live in concert is an amazing experience and is still well worth the price of admission, no matter what her age.  Her voice is more powerful and more beautiful than ever!  She is still a phenomenon who sings well above her age of 16!  Her voice is so captivating and it is always a pleasure to witness how she soars over notes using such expressiveness that tugs at my emotions.  Sure, there are some differences in Jackie’s current concerts compared to the past…. Gone is the little girl who would playfully twirl, skip, and giggle while on stage; Gone is the splendor of seeing s small child commanding the respect of a full orchestra.  Young girls eventually grow up and Jackie is certainly no different.  She has now grown up into a beautiful young adult with poise and professionalism that is beyond her teenage years.  Jackie still has some playful banter with the audience, but on a different maturity level from when she was younger.  She knows how to reach her audience in a personal and humbly profound way.  Time moves on and Jackie moves along with it.  Each phase of her life will bring another new dynamic to the experience of following her career and I feel blessed to be able to witness a part of her journey through life these past 6 years and beyond.

The music Jackie performed  consisted of many of the songs that she has sung in the past on her CDs titled Dream With Me, Songs From The Silver Screen, and Awakening.  Jackie also sang some new songs that were recorded this past summer and shared with fans via music videos on YouTube.  Although Jackie released a total of five new music videos this past year, she only performed two of the new songs from those videos at the concert.  This included Safe and Sound and Writings On The Wall.  The new songs that were absent from the set-list were All of The Stars, Apocalypse, and Coming Home.  I was really hoping to hear Jackie perform the song Apocalypse because it was an original song that was written just for her and it is very well done.  I am not quite sure why it wasn’t included on the program.  However, Jackie did perform a couple of new songs from her upcoming CD (soon to be released in the early part of 2017) that I had never heard before, so it was a treat to get a sneak peek at these songs.  The two new songs that she sung were a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” and a new original song titled “Think About Me.”   Although I don’t really care for the original Coldplay version of “Fix You,”  I really liked Jackie’s version of the song.  It isn’t unusual for Jackie to take an existing song and make it better with her exquisite vocals and her musical interpretation of the song.  The song “Think About Me” was very good too, but I think “Fix You” was more of my favorite.  Of course it was certainly wonderful to hear Jackie perform all of her past CD songs too.  There are so many great songs from her CD repertoire that it is hard to pick favorites.  However, for the first time, I got the chance to experience Jackie performing a very special song that is near and dear to me, and that is “Nessun Dorma.”  This song started me becoming a fan when I first saw the recording on YouTube of Jackie singing it for her PBS Great Performances special back in 2011.  I was so captivated at how she sang this song that I was moved to tears (as is the case with many of Jackie’s songs).  I described this in detail on my very first blog entry titled Why Do I Admire Jackie Evancho.  So, it was a huge treat for me to finally get to hear Jackie sing Nessun Dorma live.  Her performance of it was magnificent!

The entire experience of being at a Jackie Evancho concert is one-of-a-kind and it is always something that I will cherish each time I am fortunate to be able to attend.  This concert was no different in that regard.   I have said this before, but it can’t be said enough.  If you ever have the opportunity to see Jackie Evancho perform live in concert, do not pass it up!  She is enchanting, charming, and has a voice that will melt your heart.  Be sure to visit Jackie’s YouTube Channel and official website to find out more about her.

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Impressions of “Dream With Me” CD

Several months have passed since the release of Jackie Evancho‘s “Dream With Me” CD on June 14th, 2011.  I purchased my copy sometime in July.  From the first time I started listening, I was amazed at how much Jackie’s voice had progressed since her appearance on America’s Got Talent in 2010. At the time of the show, her performances were exceptional.  As I listened to the CD months later, it was as if Jackie had taken her already amazing talent and propelled it to the next level.  The vocals that are produced from this gifted little girl (11 years old at the time the CD was released) are absolutely incredible.  Over 2 months have passed since I first listened to it, and I am still playing it almost daily in my car.  It draws me in like no other recording has ever done.  There is this uncanny sense of peace and tranquility that comes over me when I listen to her sing.  It is almost indescribable.  The CD covers a range of musical genres that highlight Jackie’s singing style very well.  Each track is beautifully orchestrated and the sound quality is exceptional.

For anyone who has not purchased this CD or at least watched some of the videos of her singing on PBS Great Performances as shown on YouTube , I would highly encourage you to do so – and to be clear, I am not a paid promoter.  Jackie is a rare pearl that will fill your heart with joy when you see and hear her perform.

The only critical comment that I would make of the CD is that there does seem to be a bit of background noise that was picked up on the “Nessun Dorma” track.  It almost sounds as if someone bumped a mic. during the recording.  This could be due to it being recorded live.  I have watched the PBS Great Performances video of “Nessun Dorma” as well (where I believe the CD recording was taken from), and it does not appear that Jackie had anything to do with the background noise.  It may have been an orchestra member or stage hand that bumped something that was picked up on the recording.  It occurs about 3 or 4 times, but does not detract from the piece.  I am a bit surprised that it could not be “edited out” of the recording considering the advancements in audio processing that are available today.

From my perspective and personal tastes regarding each piece on the CD, I have come up with my own order of favorites concerning each track.  Keep in mind that this was not easy considering I absolutely love each and every track, but I think that I do have a slight preferential ranking that I would like to share – basically an order of favorites among favorites.  The rankings that I have come up with are as follows:

  1. “Lovers” by Shigeru Umebayashi – Absolutely my most favored track.  It is just such a powerful piece of music and to hear Jackie’s performance of it with such great orchestral backing is just mesmerizing.
  2. “Nessun Dorma” by Giacomo Puccini,  Giuseppe Adami, Renato Simoni – Jackie broke the mold singing this piece considering it is primarily meant to be performed by male adult tenors.  However, Jackie took this thing on and totally nailed it.  She made it her own and created a new dimension to this piece that is fresh and inspiring.  Even though there is some background noise in portions as mentioned earlier, I still would rank this as part of my top picks.
  3. “Imaginer”  by Walter Afanasieff,  Lara Fabian – Just when I was blown away by Jackie  taking on the complex task of singing in Italian with “Nessun Dorma”, she goes one step further and sings in French on “Imaginer” with equally amazing skill.  The emotion that comes from her interpretation of this piece is absolutely brilliant.
  4. “The Lords Prayer” by Albert Hay Malotte  – This is probably one of the most touching songs that Jackie sings on the CD.  When I first played this for my wife and kids in the car, everyone was speechless.  When it had ended, you could hear a pin drop.  It was as if our souls had been touched in a unique and profound way.  When I pray this prayer, I now hear Jackie singing it in my head and I feel an even deeper connection with God because of it.
  5. “To Believe” by Matthew Evancho – This is another spiritually touching piece that Jackie sings.  This was written by her uncle who is a musical composer.  It showcases Jackie in a very charming and endearing way as a prayer in song.  Having a children’s’ choir for accompaniment to Jackie is another wonderful touch within this piece that portrays the sacred innocence of childhood.  I think the lyrics illustrate the hopes and dreams of us all.

From here on, it starts getting a bit harder for me to rank.  I pretty much have equal favoritism for each of these next pieces, but if I will rank them nonetheless.

  1. “Nella Fantasia” by Ennio Morricone, Chiara Ferrau  – Another beautiful Italian piece that Jackie sings so effortlessly.  This is one of the reasons why Jackie’s voice has such a great appeal.  She can beautifully sing a song like this with a gentle style that is not overpowering.
  2. “O mio ba babbino caro” by Giacomo Puccinni – This piece has special meaning to me, because it is the first debut piece that I heard Jackie sing on America’s Got Talent.  This is where her launch to stardom began and it will always be something dear to me and probably many of her fans.
  3. “Dream With Me” by David Foster, Linda Thompson, and Jackie Evancho – This is the title track on the CD and I love the fact that Jackie had a hand in writing it.  I am not sure of the level of contribution that Jackie made on this piece, but just to know that she was involved with it is very appealing.  It is indeed a dreamy song full of things you would expect an 11-year-old girl to dream about, which is what I love about it.
  4. “Ombra mai fu” by George Frideric Handel – The vocal entrance that Jackie makes after the intro is one of the many reasons to love her performance of this piece.  In addition, she demonstrates great control over her voice by showcasing her ability to hit a broad range of notes with a great sense of pitch while making it seem effortless.
  5. “A Mother’s Prayer” by David Foster, Carol Bayer Sager – This piece has been performed many different ways by many different artists.  Typically performed as a duet, Jackie Evancho and Susan Boyle team up to record this piece.  Although the recording was made using “studio magic” to combine Jackie and Susan’s voices to form the duet, it is masterfully done and is a joy to hear.
  6. “Somewhere” by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim – Another amazing use of “studio magic” to combine the voices of Jackie Evancho and the legendary Barbra Streisand.  Jackie and Barbara complement each other very well in this piece.
  7. “All I Ask of You” by Charles Hart, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Richard Stilgoe – For anyone who has followed Jackie Evancho, this piece should have special meaning since it is from “The Phantom of the Opera” — one of the reasons why Jackie became inspired to sing.  Starting at age 8, she began singing songs from the musical and it eventually lead to where she is today.  You can sense the passion that she has for this piece when she sings.
  8. “When You Wish Upon a Star” by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington – An all time Disney classic.  At first I though this piece was a bit beneath the skills of Jackie until I listened to it.  She treats this piece with an equal level of grace as the more complex works that she performs.  I believe that Disney could use this as their headline rendition, it is that good!
  9. “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan – Although this comes in at the bottom of the list (something has to when you rate things), I think this is another fine performance by Jackie that deserves accolades for sure.  Although I personally feel that Jackie is better suited for classics as opposed to pop music, she still does a wonderful job with this piece and I can understand why it was chosen for her to perform — she has the voice of an angel and it is only fitting for her to sing it.

As I said earlier, I am not a paid promoter, nor am I a professional music critic.  I am just a simple man who has been impressed beyond belief by the wonderful gift of music that God has allowed me to enjoy.  I think that Jackie is heaven-sent and I truly cherish what she has done so far.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

To see one of my favorite reviews of “Dream with Me”  and of her other releases  on Amazon, click here.

Why do I admire Jackie Evancho?

I am not sure why I am compelled to write a blog entry on this topic, but I have a deep desire to do so based on inspiration that I have found in an 11-year-old girl named Jackie Evancho.  So here goes my first blog attempt.

It has been over a year since America was introduced to Jackie Evancho on the TV show called America’s Got Talent in 2010. At the time she started competing/performing on the show, it was clear that she was a very gifted child with extraordinary singing talent. But after the show’s season ended for that year, I would have no idea just how special she is until this summer (2011) when, for whatever reason, I felt like passing the time away by searching for videos of her on YouTube. I came across many videos of Jackie Evancho singing on various TV talk shows, performance halls, and also saw some videos of her singing on PBS Great Performances. One video in particular that caught my attention was of her singing “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini. I was mesmerized by how lovely she sang such a complex and challenging piece of music. Coming from an instrumental music background (Bachelor of Music in Education, 1985) I can truly appreciate the natural musicality that she shows at such a young age.  She is so expressive in her approach to the music. Her performance of this piece and many others has moved me to tears. I cannot explain why or how, but for whatever reason the vocals that she is capable of producing at such a young age is overwhelming – consuming the listener into a deep connection that penetrates the soul. In the time that followed my listening and viewing experiences, I could not help but become compelled to discover more videos of her. Each video that I found was special in its own way and had an emotional affect on me. You could tell that she would immerse herself in the music almost as if she was intimately connected with God. I said to myself, “God is singing to us through Jackie.” How amazing it is that such splendor could be shown to us through such a small child!

I don’t have words to express why I have been affected so much by this little girl. Maybe it is the combination of the charm of her age coupled with her uncanny ability to sing the genre of music that she performs. It may also be because there seems to be more to her than just a talented singer. From what I can tell she seems genuinely nice, kind, respectful, and caring.  As I continue to dig further into the life of Jackie, as seen through the Internet, I am truly amazed at how well she composes herself when she is in the spotlight. She has given many interviews where she is joyful and pleasant – all while staying true to herself as a kid. She comes across as being very well-rounded for an 11 year-old. That is quite a lot to believe for anyone who has not viewed her videos, but I can say that I have seen all of these things without ever having met her.  Of course, there are always differences in how a person can be perceived in the media vs. real-life, but I would hope that the things that I have read and watched are true indicators of her character.  I believe that they are!

There has been plenty of testimonial videos from very prominent people who have nothing but praise for Jackie.  The comments pour in over her videos almost daily.  She has truly touched many lives by simply showcasing the talents that God has given her.  I have spent a lot of time scanning through comments that people have written to her on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. She has impacted the lives of many people. Some have even claimed to have found a belief in God when once they had none, based solely on how they were astounded by her singing ability. Others have found inner peace within themselves even during troubling times.  How amazing that a child like this can have such a positive impact on people.

I believe that one of the reasons why Jackie is held together so well is that she has a very strong foundation in her family. I would like to express my compliments to her parents. I think that they have done a tremendous job with managing their family while being thrown into the entertainment limelight with Jackie’s recent fame. This has probably been quite a ride for them and I pray that they are able to keep up with the rigors of balancing home-life with the attention that has surrounded Jackie. I remember when my children were under 12. It is a fun and challenging time – some of the fondest years that I have had as a parent.  My advice is to cherish it as much as you can.

I think that Jackie Evancho has so much going for her as a singer and a person as long as she remains true to herself and isn’t corrupted by the entertainment industry to become something that doesn’t suit her.  I hope she continues to remain a classical-crossover singer or perhaps just a classical performer.  She seems to fit very well into that genre.

I can truly say that I am indeed a fan and would hope to be able to see her live in concert some day.  I listen to her “Dream With Me” CD on a regular basis and I cannot emphasize enough how much inner peace I feel when I am lulled by her angelic voice.  If I am having a stressful day, I start-up her music and just listen.  It doesn’t take long before I feel a peaceful calmness that envelopes me.

A lot of us can learn a few things about how to look at life through the eyes of this very gifted child. It is like witnessing a beautiful flower in bloom. I am so thankful to God for giving us such a great gift in Jackie Evancho. To me it shows another depth of love that God our Father has for us because of what has been revealed.  Bless Jackie and her family for sharing this precious gift with all of us!

“And he said to them: Whoever will receive this child in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives him who sent me. For whoever is the lesser among you all, the same is greater.” – Luke 9:48

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