Pittsburgh concert March 12, 2013 – A great day!

It had been fifteen long months since the last time I saw Jackie Evancho in person.  Fifteen months waiting in anticipating for March 12, 2013 when Jackie would finally be performing somewhere I could attend.  Suffice it to say, this concert was well worth the wait!  I will try to paint a picture of the day with words so that you follow along as I saw it.

The entire day was a whirlwind of activity.  My wife and I departed for Pittsburgh slightly after 12:30 pm, arriving in the city around 2:45 pm.  The traffic was heavy for the first 15 minutes of the trip.  After that, the drive went very well.  The weather was cool (around 40 deg.) and overcast.  There were only a few sprinkles of rain here and there along the way, but for the most part the weather cooperated.  As soon as we arrived in Pittsburgh, I could feel the excitement starting to mount.  This was going to be a great day!  We found a nice place to park the car in a parking deck just down the street from the arts district in Pittsburgh.  The first thing we did was to walk to Heinz Hall to check out the venue.  It didn’t take long to find it at all.  Surprisingly, there was no marquee with Jackie’s name outside the concert hall.  We walked around the hall looking for posters, or some kind of hint that Jackie was performing there that day.  We didn’t find any sign of Jackie’s concert at first.  Later on, there would be posters of Jackie put up by the venue.

After checking out Heinz Hall, we proceeded to Six Penn Kitchen restaurant where a Jackie fan gathering / dinner before the concert would be taking place.  My wife and I were the first fans to arrive.  We were an hour early.  The fan gathering wasn’t until 4:00 pm, but we sat down in the bar area to wait for and welcome the arriving fans.  I had volunteered to make arrangements for the fans to have dinner and I was a bit worried as to whether there would be enough space for everyone.  It was going to be a very large group.  Reservations were for 26, but I think more than that eventually showed up.  Thankfully, Six Penn restaurant set aside an upstairs room for us to gather.  I think that the fan turnout overwhelmed the restaurant staff, but they did a great job in accommodating us.  I can’t thank the manager and staff at Six Penn enough for everything.  I was told that we ballooned to around 36 fans who actually showed up – one of the biggest turnouts ever for a fan gathering.  The fan gathering was charged full of excitement.   There were people handing out Jackie buttons galore, in addition to posters, banners, cards, and everything imaginable for all of us to sign and wish Jackie the best.  So many fans generously gave to other fans out of the goodness of their heart.  It is one of the many great qualities of Jackie’s fans.

Time started to fly.  Before we knew it, the time was approaching 6:00 pm – the magic hour when those of us who were fortunate enough to attend M&G were to report to Heinz Hall.  Once we arrived at Heinz Hall, the outer lobby was packed full of people.  It was hard to believe that all of these people were attending M&G.  I think some were just arriving early for the concert to take in the experience.  Soon we would get our M&G passes and those of us who received them were escorted into the hall.  We were taken down a stairway to a lower level where the area was roped off for the fans to form a line to see Jackie. It wasn’t long before Jackie, her family, staff, and security were in the room adjacent from the line of fans.  I could see them all just ahead.  Soon, the line started to move.  At this time, I will admit that the butterflies start to take over and nerves set it.  How is it that Jackie’s presence in a room can suddenly raise the emotional levels up so high?  I was feeling giddy with excitement!  Soon, there was only one more person to go in before me.  I frantically tried to remember what I wanted to say to Jackie.  Here we go…. I am next.  I walked up, handed my camera to Jackie’s manager, and then greeted Jackie.  My mind suddenly went blank.  What did I want to say?  All I could get out was, “Hi Jackie!  Nice to see you again!  I haven’t seen you in a long time since the last time you were in Pittsburgh.”  Jackie was a bit soft-spoken.  I think she said, “Thanks for coming.”  Honestly, in the excitement of the moment I am not sure what she said.  Soon, the picture was snapped, and I knew my time was over.  Before I walked away I think I said, “You’re the greatest Jackie!”  I think she said, “Thanks!”  Oh… I wanted to say so much more!  I forgot to tell her my name (not that it matters).  I wanted to tell her how much I admired her for her voice, her kindness, and most of all her faith in God.  I wanted to tell her that I believed she was making a difference in the world.  But, before I knew it, I was out of there.  The time with Jackie may have been only several seconds, but the memories will last forever.

On to the concert.  We still had about 45 minutes before the concert would start at 7:30 pm.  My wife arrived at Heinz Hall to meet me since she did not get to go to M&G.   We hung out in the lobby talking with fans, taking pictures, and soaking in the atmosphere.  We soon went to our seats in the front row center section.  The seats were incredible!  We were about 4 feet from the stage.   Jackie would eventually be singing probably about 8 feet from where we were sitting.  Soon, the lights started to dim, the concert master tuned the orchestra, and we were underway.  At that moment, I wanted the time to slow down so that I could savor every minute of this experience.  The entire Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) was there to play for Jackie.  They started out with 2 music intermezzos from the opera Carmen (Entr’acte – Act 4, and Act 3 respectively).  I absolutely love these selections as a concert opener for Jackie.  It sets the mood perfectly,  and the PSO played them beautifully.  It gave me goosebumps, and Jackie hasn’t even come out yet.  Once the orchestra completed the selections from Carmen to a rousing applause  the orchestra suddenly starts into the haunting introduction of “Pure Imagination.”  At this time, I could feel the rush of emotion take me over, as I knew Jackie would soon be coming out.  Suddenly, out she comes in a beautiful turquoise dress  that I have seen photos of but never seen in person.  She looked spectacular with the lights shimmering off her dress.  The introduction of the song finishes, and then Jackie starts into “Pure Imagination.”  Her voice is as pure and wonderful as I have ever heard it. The orchestra and Jackie were now one, and the music was like listening to her Songs From the Silver Screen CD, only better!  One by one, Jackie sang through the songs on her set list and all I could do was pray that somehow time would just slow down to a halt because I didn’t want the moment to end.  I was in a state of bliss!  There she was,  just 8 feet away and sometimes even closer when she would walk to our side of the stage.   Jackie’s family sat about 8 rows back from where we sat and it was obvious that Jackie was giving them extra attention.  You could tell that she was very happy to have her family there in the audience and it showed.  She made it a point to wave to as many audience members as she could between songs during all the many cheers that came her way.  One special treat that we got as a bonus for being in the front row is that during intermission, Jackie’s family came in and out of the concert hall through the front row aisle just inches from where we were standing.  It was great to see Jackie’s siblings, her grandparents, and several other family members and/or friends whom I did not recognize, walk by our seats.  They kept to themselves and tried to be inconspicuous, moving through our area rapidly.  It was really great to see this wonderful family!  Jackie’s mother and father (Mike and Lisa) were not in the audience.  I am assuming they were backstage.  Lisa did come out at intermission (rapidly) to remove the set-list for the first half from the stage floor.  At intermission, my wife and I remained in our seating area.  I had several people come up to us because they thought WE were family.  This happened to us at the last concert we attended at Pittsburgh too.  It must be the Jackie buttons we wore, or the Jackie M&G pass that I was wearing that may lead people to think this.  It is sort of flattering, but I have to tell them that we are just fans of Jackie.  Many wanted to know where we got the buttons.  Several people who were patrons of the PSO talked with us too.  Some had never heard Jackie and were floored at how well she sang.  Soon the intermission was over and we were on to the second half (oh nooo!  concert is going by way too fast!).   The orchestra starts into Pirates of the Caribbean as a lead-in for the second half (I was hoping they would do something a little higher up to their level, but that is the standard set-list for her concerts on this tour).  Soon, Jackie would be coming out for the second half wearing a spectacular dress that may fans have been raving about.  It is absolutely spectacular as it explodes with shimmers of light!  I now know that pictures cannot do it justice, you have to see it for real as others have said as well.  Jackie then sings the second half with various songs from her CDs (Songs From the Silver Screen, and Dream With Me).   There is no doubt in this fan’s mind that Jackie still has plenty of fire-power in that gorgeous voice of hers.  Jumaane Smith (a talented guest trumpeter who tours with Jackie) also performed his solos brilliantly as well as his duet with Jackie on The Summer Knows.  Jackie poured herself into her songs to give everything she had for the home crowd.  She finished to a roaring applause and came out for 3 curtain calls and two encores.  Maybe on other concerts she would have only done one encore, but I am guessing she wanted to give her all to the home crowd.  Everyone generously showed their appreciation with roaring applause and standing Os.  We didn’t want to let her go!

After the concert was over we didn’t want to leave until the ushers told us we had to go.  I talked to some fans afterwards outside Heinz Hall.  Some of the fans whom I had talked with were people I hadn’t seen at the dinner, but had recognized from the last time I was in Pittsburgh to see Jackie back in December of 2011.  One fan I remember in particular had his young 8 year-old daughter with him.  They were both beaming from the concert.  It was great to see young kids at the concert too.  Jackie certainly does transcend to all age groups.

Thank you to Jackie and her family for making all of this possible.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for getting to experience the joy of meeting Jackie again and attending this concert!  It was fabulous!


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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