A magical evening with Jackie and The Dayton Philharmonic

scan0001After a long year since the last time I had the opportunity to see Jackie Evancho perform live again, I finally was able to attend her concert this past Saturday in Dayton, Ohio.  Jackie performed two nights (Friday – 4/27/18, and Saturday – 4/28/18).  I was not able to attend on Friday, but managed to attend the Saturday concert, and oh what a concert it was!

I had purchased tickets for this concert almost 6 months ago, without knowing for sure if my wife and I could attend.  Our schedules have been very packed lately and it would be uncertain if we could break away from the demands of everyday life in order to attend.   Since this concert was only a three hour drive from home, it made the decision a bit easier to go for it.  We decided to spend the night at a hotel on the night of the concert to avoid having to drive back home that night after the concert.

When the day of the concert arrived, the anticipation and excitement of going to see Jackie suddenly was upon us.  The weather that day was unseasonably cool for this time of year.  We had been experiencing unusually cold, wet, and snowy weather in April this year.  In spite of a dismal weather forecast, the weather was better than expected.  Although the temperature stayed in the low 50s, the forecast of rain held off.  We arrived at our hotel around 3:30 pm.  That gave us plenty of time to settle in, freshen up and get to dinner before the 8:00 pm concert.  As I checked us in at the hotel front desk, the clerk asked me what brought us to Dayton.  I told him that my wife and I were coming to see Jackie Evancho perform at the Schuster Center with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.  The clerk then brightened up and said that he just saw Jackie perform last night and that it was absolutely fabulous!  It was great to hear that and it just increased the excitement even more.

We departed the hotel around 5:30 pm since I had booked dinner reservations at Citilites restaurant at 6:15 pm.  The restaurant was conveniently located inside the same building as the performance hall, so it seemed like a good option for dinner.  The parking deck where we parked was right across from the performance hall.  After we parked and started walking to the hall, they were playing Jackie’s music over the loudspeakers in the parking deck.  That was a surprise in itself.  I don’t believe I had ever been to a Jackie concert where her music was being played in the parking deck.  It brought a smile to my face.  I was also very pleased to see that there were plenty of promotional pictures of Jackie all around the hall and in the parking deck.  It didn’t take long to notice that The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance put a lot of dedication into the promotion of these concerts with Jackie and the Dayton Philharmonic.  As my wife and I walked into the Schuster center, the place looked very impressive.

We found the Citilites restaurant inside the building and were soon seated at our table.   It had become traditional for many die-hard Jackie Evancho fans to get together for dinner before a concert, but due to communications break-downs, there was no formal fan gathering planned.  However, it soon became obvious that many familiar fans that I have met in the past decided that Citilites was also where they would dine before the concert.  So, in-a-sense we still had a fan-gathering of sorts.   Great minds think alike!  It was nice catching up with some people whom I haven’t seen in over a year.  The dinner, the camaraderie, and the atmosphere was great!

Before we knew it, concert time was approaching.  We proceeded to our seats.  I had purchased tickets for my preferred place to sit for a Jackie concert – 4th row, just slightly left of center stage.  I’ve always felt that this is a great vantage point to see Jackie, although she always makes every attempt to walk along the width of the stage so that everyone can get a chance to see her.  In all the years that I have attended Jackie concerts, she has always commanded a remarkable stage presence even in her very younger years.  Now that she is 18, her composure on stage is much more mature and reserved than when she was younger, but she still has that grace and charm about her that her fans have come to know and love.

The stage looked elegant and classy.  The orchestra members were doing typical warm-ups on stage as people moved towards their seats.  The Dayton Philharmonic took up a large portion of the stage.  There was a complete contingency of orchestral instrumentation.  I could tell this was going to be a special night, since it had become rare to see Jackie perform with a full orchestra these past few years as opposed to when she was first doing shows right after her debut on America’s Got Talent in 2010.

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Soon the show would begin after the concert-master came out in typical tradition to tune the orchestra.  The conductor Neal Gittleman would take the baton and lead the orchestra as opposed to Jackie’s usual music director Peter Kiesewalter.  Maestro  Gittleman did a wonderful job establishing a rapport with the audience right from the get-go.  He seemed to be very genuine with his admiration for Jackie and the opportunity to perform with her.   He indicated that Jackie wanted the orchestra to have the opportunity to perform some pieces on their own as well as have her sing with them.  Thus, the orchestra opened the show and played a couple of additional pieces in each half.  At first I wondered how well Jackie would mesh with a conductor that she hadn’t worked with before, but after Jackie performed her first song titled “Lovers” it didn’t take long to realize that Jackie, Maestro Gittleman and the orchestra were going to be working well together.  There wasn’t as much over-amplification used for this performance outside of Jackie’s microphone and maybe some slight orchestral amplification.  It wasn’t needed as there was plenty of sound to fill the hall, which had splendid acoustics.  The format of the show was primarily focusing on Jackie’s earlier music, being more on the classical side.  Jackie performed several songs from her Dream With Me and Songs From the Silver Screen albums.  However, Jackie did perform two songs (“How Great Thou Art”, and “The Way We Were”) from her latest CD titled “Two Hearts.”  Although there was a printed program with this concert, the set-list wasn’t in it.  I wasn’t able to remember the entire set-list, but perhaps someone who wrote it down can share it here.

Here is Jackie’s page inside the printed program:

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The format of the show seemed to follow a pattern of Jackie singing about 4 songs, then yielding to the orchestra to play a piece, and then having Jackie sing 4 songs to close out each half.  One of the standout songs that got everyone jumping to their feet after it was over was when Jackie sang “How Great Thou Art”  She sounded magnificent singing this song and I think it was perhaps the best performance of the night.  Jackie also received standing ovations for Music Of The Night and Nessun Dorma, which closed out the program.  After thunderous applause at the end of the regular program, Jackie came out to do an encore of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Throughout the entire concert Jackie sang incredible!  She seemed a little nervous at the very beginning, but it only took a few measures of the first song before she settled-in to her musical comfort zone.  I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly poised Jackie is on stage.  She has a stage-presence that is just mesmerizing.  There were a couple of brief moments when she looked over at me and I could feel the eye-contact as if she were singing right to me!  She has a way of drawing in her audience like no other performing artist that I have ever seen.  She makes you feel appreciated for being there to see her perform.  It is quite special!

Once the show was over, I left with that usual euphoric feeling of music bliss.  Jackie touched my heart once again with her amazing voice and personal charm.  I am grateful that I was able to  have that experience with her.  It is hard to say when I will be able to see Jackie perform again, but I will always cherish each and every opportunity that I have to see her perform live.

God bless you Jackie and thank you for sharing your gift!

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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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