My thoughts on Awakening

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Hi folks, I’m still dedicating all my time to finishing my book, already months past due at the publishers.

I noted in a post a long time ago that Jackie is so good we hold her to a higher standard. What would be seen as great in many a lesser artist we see as merely good in Jackie’s body of work.

Also, I’ve not forgotten that Jackie is merely fourteen years old! That not only makes her a wonder by any measure, her singing is so good. It also makes me consider the challenges she faces at this second phase of what might be a four-phase career (pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult). Her voice is developing and she is at the stage in life when one is most self-conscious.

Please keep these things in mind as you read my not always hagiographic assessment.

I’ll be honest, when I first listened to Awakening, I was largely unimpressed, that is, compared to my reaction to Dream WIth Me and Songs of the Silver Screen.

Having listened to Awakening repeatedly, I haven’t entirely changed my opinion. I place it behind the other two albums.

The good: Jackie’s high notes on this album send chills down my spine. Some have that bell-like purity I so love in her earlier work. To my ear, the orchestration and production are fine, not too lush and they do not overwhelm the singing. The song selection is less predictable than the movie songs album, though I think not as inventive as on Dream With Me.

The not so good: Often I hear in this album a less than perfectly smooth transition from low to high notes, but to be fair to Jackie, I hear that as well in the recordings of other great singers. As I mention below, I find that she does not always master expression and sound in her lower register.

Her French on Je’taime is heavily accented, but she pulls it off. She sounds as if she understands the words, even though she is not conversant in the language.

I have mixed feelings about Open Fields of Grace. Jackie conveys emotion. Her high notes are lovely. But I don’t find her voice convincing when she hits the lowest notes. I have the same problem with With or With or Without You.

Ave Maria is undoubtedly a beautiful song. But as a piece of music, I’m as tired of hearing it as I am, say, of the transcendently beautiful Pachelbel’s Canon. One can have too much of a beautiful thing. Yet Jackie’s rendition is lovely. Her high notes carry me away. She seems to struggle with breath control at a few points.

The Rains of Castermere does nothing for me. I’m uninterested in the subject, the lyrics, and the music. Jackie sings it well, but in this rare case she doesn’t overcome what are to me the song’s weaknesses.

What I like about Take Me There and Memories and With You or Without You is that she handles the fast tempo well. Indeed, I think the tempo works to her benefit. There is less evidence in these songs of struggling with breath management. In each she expresses emotion well. Her diction is clear. A few words get lost in the high notes, but that’s a problem many singers have.

Some of us think that Jackie sang many of the songs on Dream With Me and Songs from the Silver Screen so well that we say she owns them. As for Awakening, I cannot say of any of them that hers is the definitive version.

There are, though, in each of the songs on Awakening moments that remind me of what I love in Jackie’s music.

A final word. From what I’ve seen on YouTube, Jackie is developing into a fine onstage performer, more professional and confident. Given that she picked up the instrument herself, her piano playing is fantastic! The girl has talent galore.

I have a ticket to Jackie’s upcoming concert in Toronto. I’ll be sure to post about my experience.

Jackie Evancho at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Music Hall — One last time for the Oldies

 Our good friend Bill Kazan kindly sent us this description and review of Jackie’s recent concert at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on August 6th. We were especially heartened to hear that Jackie is becoming ever more confident onstage: Bill points out that her patter between songs didn’t sound rehearsed, as it did in the past. Instead, he says, “she was fluent and funny and obviously enjoying the reactions from the audience.” Her shy, ingenuous awkwardness was charming when she was 10 or 12; it will become less so as she matures into an adult performer. 

Letting the audience in on some of her own thoughts and feelings, which she did, and keeping her mom and dad in the picture are, we think, a sweet way to perpetuate her connection with her early fans, those who fondly remember Jackie when they seldom saw her beyond the embrace of her interesting and admirable parents. She and her family continue to shine as an apparently genuine example of what a wholesome family looks and acts like.  

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Photo Credit: Bill Kazan

Jackie Sings the Oldies at the Music Hall

It was a little less than a year ago that I wrote a review of Jackie’s concert at the Hanover theater in Worcester MA. I was somewhat critical in that review — that her production team was not adding new material, and I thought the absence of anything new might have something to do with the poor attendance.

On Wednesday night I attended her Portsmouth NH concert at the Music Hall, and although the songs were mostly a repeat of Hanover, I have no complaints. In fact, I would say this was her best performance of the four concerts I have attended.

The Music Hall is a great venue – very small, it dates from 1878 – the Music Hall poster said “Intimate”, and it was.

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Photo Credit: Bill Kazan

Our wondering about the “new” is now in the past: Jackie has issued the song list for her upcoming album; she will tape her Awakening PBS special in two weeks; the new CD arrives in late September; and I expect they will start booking her for The Talk, The View and the rest, as her album debuts.

I did think she might perform Think of Me, since it is already released for purchase, but she let us know at the start of the concert that this would only be songs from Dream with Me (DWM) and Songs From the Silver Screen (SFSS). I guess if we want to hear Jackie sing the new songs live we’ll have to wait for the album release. Jackie encouraged us to order Awakening!

So, I was thinking, this will be the last time I see and hear what I call the “early” Jackie. DWM was released in 2011 (over three years ago), and SFSS a year later, so these are the songs that got her and us to Awakening, which will now become the focus of her concert tour and TV spots.

No matter how good the selections on Awakening, the songs performed at the Musical Hall on Wednesday will always have a special place for me, and I think most of her early fans. These songs remind us of when we were first introduced to her music, and the beauty and emotion of her singing. I was really glad I was there to hear her sing these songs again — some of them we might not hear her sing again live for a long while. Maybe nothing “new” on Wednesday was a gift.

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Photo Credit: Bill Kazan

So I viewed this as Jackie sings the oldies, and if you love the “early” Jackie, then this was a great concert. I thought her command of the stage and her voice were never better. The song selection was wonderful (song list is below). I do miss the songs on the banned list (Nessun Dorma, Dark Waltz, and Danny Boy), but to everything there is a season.

For those who are wondering, the framework was the same as most of her concerts — Maestro Di Costanzo conducting a local (and very excellent) young orchestra, and Jackie did her usual three song sets followed with orchestra selections. No children were called up on stage — not something I missed!

Although the songs were not new, Jackie had some new things to show us. She introduced almost every song, and managed to give some advice on the teenage years (coping), dedications to both her Mom and Dad (he cries when she sings), and how much she loves the smell of popcorn (which was evident in the very intimate Music Hall setting which was pumping out the popcorn at intermission).

It reminded me of the SFSS tour and PBS special, where she also introduced all the songs, although that was obviously rehearsed. But at the Music Hall she was talking to us between almost every song, and she was fluent and funny and obviously enjoying the reactions from the audience. And how great to just hear her talk about things in her life, and not the “standard book” of questions and answers which seem to be baked into every interview. I think those who were there were made to feel more connected with her than in some of her prior concerts.

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Jackie filming a promo for her new album (Credit: Jackie’s Instagram account)

A few other observations:

We got a good smattering of Jackie waves (maybe she won’t outgrow her wave? I hope not). I thought when Jackie hit that high note in The Music of the Night I could hear glass cracking — luckily no injuries, unbelievable.

Jackie did not sing O mio babbino caro — this is the first concert I’ve attended where she did not perform what some regard as her signature song. I’m thinking with three concerts in five days maybe the plan was to save some of her ammo.

And the last thing I would ever expect to see at a Jackie concert — she missed the start of Can You Feel the Love Tonight —  and appeared not to know what the song selection was. So she turned to Maestro Di Costanzo for direction, and then with a quick Jackie wave and a “sorry folks” she gracefully recovered.* The first line of the lyric jumped ship (she didn’t sing “There’s a calm surrender to the rush of day”), but the rest of the lyric stayed on-board and, what’s more, she never lost her composure. Altogether I found the little episode endearing. Yes, it turns out, she’s human after all, not perfect. I think maybe the smell of popcorn muddled her brain.

Now that she is moving on to new songs, what a gift that we have recordings of these first songs — they were our “awakening” to her talent and the special person she is. So while I look forward to the new, I will treasure the old. I’m sure she will keep many of these early songs in her concerts, not to mention that we’ll no doubt hear them again on her inevitable Greatest Hits CD.

I felt nostalgic leaving the Music Hall. It was a good night for the old songs.  But now bring on the new!

Here is the song list

From Dream With Me:

When You Wish Upon a Star (opening song)

Imaginer

Lovers

The Lord’s Prayer

Ombra Mai Fu

The Impossible Dream (bonus Target track)

 

From Songs of the Silver Screen:

Some Enchanted Evening

What a Wonderful World

Can You Feel the Love Tonight

My Heart Will Go On

Reflection

The Music of the Night (encore)        

 

*Editor’s note: the same thing happened in Toronto; there, too, the maestro came to her rescue.

Yojan Laura and Ana Ausfeld’s Jackie Evancho Awakening Promo — Outstanding!

Promo 5Fans Hispanoamerica, Yojan Laura, and Ana Ausfeld’s Awakening Promo. Wow.

We don’t recall seeing a Jackie Evancho-fan-produced video more professional and effective than this one.

At first we thought it was a production of Jackie’s recording company (though we did wonder that they would reference JE’s self-produced album, Prelude to a Dream, and use footage from an amateur video).Promo 3The HD images and sound compliment Jackie’s youthful beauty and her soaring notes. They are a reminder, should we need, it of why we liked Jackie in the first place.

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Now about that pop video … “Go Time” … We’ll give you our verdict next week.

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