Jackie Evancho’s Toronto Triumph, March 2013

Credit: Greg Chance

Credit: Balsam Mery / Greg Chance

DATE: MARCH 16, 2013

[Ed’s note: for her Toronto concert, Jackie attracted an audience of 2,071, which is 87% of the venue’s capacity of 2,376. The concert generated $149,391 in ticket sales.]

On Thursday night this past week I attended Jackie Evancho’s concert at Roy Thomson Hall, in Toronto. It was the second time I had seen Jackie on stage. The first was in Los Angeles last July at the taping of her second PBS concert at the venerable Orpheum Theatre, where Judy Garland started her career.

Tor 6 Orpheum

The Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles

Jackie’s performance in Toronto on Thursday may well be overlooked when her history is written, not because it was unworthy, but because it will seem to have been unexceptional. The problem is, Jackie has given dozens of concerts in the last couple of years, and all of them have been exceptional.

Exceptional because Jackie is a little girl with marvelous gifts, so her every astonishingly mature performance, her every bewitching rendition of every song she sings, her every confident measured pace of her petite frame across the stage, before thousands of men and women three or four, even five times her age, is, by definition, exceptional. But there are degrees of exceptional.

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Roy Thomson Hall Credit: Balsam Mery / Greg Chance

While Jackie’s least is better than most other artists’ best, among her body of work there will be greater and lesser masterpieces. The Toronto concert is not likely to enter the Jackie Evancho pantheon, but Jackie gave her Toronto audience many wonderful moments and one in particular, her captivating rendition of The Music of the Night.  

Credit:: Greg Chance

Credit: Balsam Mery / Greg Chance

Torontonians and residents of what locally is called the Golden Horseshoe–the megalopolis between Oshawa to the east of Toronto and Hamilton to the west of the great city–did themselves proud by almost filling the theatre.

There were a few empty seats in the loft, and a few more toward the front, but the latter were no-shows, and it would have been unusual if the upper balconies were full.

Tor 8 Roy Thomson Hall

Credit: Balsam Mery / Greg Chance

When I passed through the lobby before the performance, I was happy to see a goodly number of children and their parents. All the little girls were dressed like Cinderella on her way to the ball.

There were of course the usual complement of over fifties, but as my friend noted, it was a young crowd compared with the audience the Toronto Symphony Orchestra usually attracts.

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Credit: (right) Dave Rorke

Speaking of which, I doubt Jackie has sung with a finer orchestra. Several of the musicians my friend recognized as members of the TSO. As for their conductor that evening, Maestro Di Costanzo, I thought he conducted dramatically and with aplomb.

The first half of the evening, Jackie wore her dazzlingly sequined blue dress. She moved about the stage in it with ease.

Credit: Dave Rorke

Credit: Dave Rorke

Following the intermission, to the audience’s delight she emerged from the wings wearing her incomparable red dress. Audacious is the word that comes to mind.

The thing is so extraordinary it’s worth dwelling on. My friend brought the subject up on our way out of the theatre. To her, no less than to everyone else, the dress is arresting. It shines and dazzles almost blindingly, so much so that my friend wondered if it is wired with LED lights.

It has a beautifully complimentary pink petticoat (if that’s the correct term). We know that because the ensemble with its train is ungainly enough that as she moves about the stage she has to raise the skirts so as not trip on them.

When she lifted her gown her little bare feet were visible, bare, apparently, so she can tell if she’s stepping on the dress. 

Credit: Terry Baker

Notice the sequins shining on Jackie’s face || Credit: Terry Baker

Jackie’s admirers have been heard to say–it’s a sentiment I share–they are glad to be alive to see and hear Jackie Evancho. Many in her Toronto audience will underline last Thursday night in their own private history.

For me Jackie’s Roy Thomson Hall concert deserves to be remembered no less than her performance at the Orpheum in Los Angeles.

But if truth be told, her accomplishment in Toronto was not the equal of what I saw her accomplish in LA.

There were brief moments, a phrase here and there, where her portamento was not pristine, where she ceased to interpret the music but merely sang it.

Credit: Balsam Mery / Greg Chance

But those were moments only. When I whispered to my friend that Jackie was uneven on an early number, she replied with a laugh, “if that was a weak performance, I can’t wait to hear a strong one.”

Throughout the evening it was obvious that we were in the presence of a musical genius. She is, nevertheless, a genius who is twelve-years-old. Despite her herculean energy and diamond cutter powers of concentration, she’s no doubt as subject to weariness and as capable of lapses in attention as anyone else might be who had traveled and performed as often as Jackie has in the past two years.

Besides, as all entertainers do, Jackie feeds on her audience’s enthusiasm, and there was little of that in evidence on Thursday night. During the regular program, only her last number garnered a full standing ovation.  

Otherwise, following many of her numbers the applause was tepid and unsustained. It was a friendly audience, no doubt , and many had come a long way to see her, but Jackie can be excused if she thought us as cold as the Canadian winter outside.

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Credit: CBC

Jackie’s Toronto audience was punished, unintentionally no doubt, by there being no second encore.

Were some in the audience bored, one wonders? At one point that evening, I considered a criticism I’d read about Jackie, that all of her songs sound the same. While I listened, it dawned on me why some people have that impression.

I think it’s because Jackie is so good she dwells on finessing the fine edges of a song, the dramatic deep notes, the exhilarating highs, the opportunities for lyricism, fullness and volume. She forgoes the flashy and faux dramatic in favor of a subtle artfulness that takes patience and familiarity with her work to notice and appreciate.

She displayed that artistry in some of her numbers Thursday evening, Ombra Mai Fu in particular, and even more so, her closing number, Music of the Night (click to see an amateur video; the audio is very good). 

If it were possible to issue a single of one of Jackie’s greatest performances, or to compile from her concerts a selection of highlights, I believe Jackie’s presentation that evening of Music of the Night would head the list.

Tor 12Perhaps because, as she reminded us in her introduction to the song, Music of the Night is high in her affections, she invested her performance of it with energy, passion, and artistic vision.

She sang slowly and deliberately, she moved purposely across the stage, first to stage left, then to stage right, she gestured elegantly and meaningfully. As I listened, enraptured, her eyes appeared to me no longer Jackie’s eyes but those of the character she was inhabiting.

The performance was intoxicating, transporting, a masterpiece. For a moment the audience, the colored lights, the orchestra, the dazzling dress, all receded and I was alone with the most beautiful singing I had ever heard.

When it was over, my friend and I looked at each other and together we said, “That was astonishing”.

Tor 5 Dave Rorke

Credit: Dave Rorke

The friend I attended the concert with had never watched Jackie on YouTube, she knew nothing about Jackie having been on America’s Got Talent, indeed she knew nothing about Jackie at all.

My friend is intelligent and, what’s more, opinionated. I knew that before the evening was out I’d hear some honest, insightful comments on the child and her performance.

“I suppose her parents are having her do these concerts in case she grows up to be just another singer,” my friend remarked before Jackie appeared on stage.

“That girl is amazing,” she told me when Jackie finished her second number.

“Did you see that, she was barefooted? That’s delightful. What a confident and determined girl she must be. I can see her telling her mother, I think I’ll just go barefoot. I bet she’s a handful at home!”

Her last words before we parted: “I know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the evening. Watching Jackie videos on YouTube.”


For those who are interested, here is the evening’s song list:

Pure Imagination, The Impossible Dream, The Summer Knows, My Heart Will Go On, Ombra Mai Fu, The Lord’s Prayer


When You Wish Upon a Star, Imaginer, When I Fall In Love, Se, and Reflection


Music of the Night

21 thoughts on “Jackie Evancho’s Toronto Triumph, March 2013

  1. I only have one comment! Tell your friend that after following Jackie’s career for several years and being a huge fan, I am convinced she is far from being a handful for her parents. She has regular chores that she does and for all we can gather is as loving and polite with her parents as she is on stage. I know that is totally different from what you might expect from someone with so much talent. Her parents do everything to keep her grounded. Her father assures everyone that the moment Jackie steps off the stage she is just one of his children with no special treatment! I hope and pray she never changes but we will see as the teen age years prevail. If anyone can make it untarnished from all this fame I believe Jackie Evancho and her amazing family can!

  2. Two corrections, the venue was Roy Thompson Hall, and the TSO was off “timbre” not timer.

    I think however that we are spoiled by her DVD performances. Both extremely hi-end productions that matched her potential, they were also “perfect” in cinematography,
    orchestration, and choice of music (no doubt due to David Foster and others who see her potential).

  3. Pshaw- to say Jackie’s songs sound alike is like someone saying Beethoven’s symphonies all sound alike. That HAS to be coming from someone who doesn’t particularly care about that sort of music.

    Well, that should be okay.

    But then someone who doesn’t follow professional basketball should not be excoriated for failing to appreciate March Madness. I knew a lady who piped up at work one day (about 1992) and asked, “Who is this guy Magic Jordan, anyway?”

    I guess every basketball game seemed the same to her…

  4. I want to premise my comments by saying that I am a huge fan of Jackie ever since seeing her on PBS, Dream with me concert. Jaw dropping voice from a (then) 11 year old girl.
    I am from Edmonton, Canada and arranged my next reg. trip to Toronto to coincide with
    her performance with the TSO at Roy Massey Hall, March 14, 2013.

    I am also a semi-regular at the ESO in Edmonton (Windspear Centre Concert Hall).
    While I have heard the accolades of the ESO and the Windspear for years being born and raised in Edmonton, I just didn’t get it until Jackie’s concert in Toronto.

    Roy Massey Hall should be torn down immediately. It has the worst acoustics I have ever heard in my life for such a venue. Even the very good staff there acknowledged that during intermission.

    To make matters worse, the sound man was absolutely tone deaf for the first 3 or 4 songs.
    Jackie actually had to tone her voice down (severely cramping her style and energy) to avoid
    cracking the glass lighting fixtures.

    The TSO was no better. Ill prepared for the songs, terrible over-timer play (may have been the room, again).

    As for Jackie, she was fantastic!!!! The dresses were unbelievable but just right and perfect
    for a 12 year old. She shimmered on stage like the superstar that she is. What a professional
    at 12 years old.

    I disagree with some of the comments on this blog about the crowd. There was much applause and Jackie even commented on the enthusiasm. The problem for me is the Hall and the TSO. They were NO match to her capabilities or perfection. A complete mismatch and she knew it
    and had to compromise her performance because if it.

    Back to the Windspear. I have already asked the co-conductor of the ESO at a recent concert
    WHY they have not booked Jackie here! She could sing without amplification in one of the best halls in the world with the best orchestra in Canada (by far). I would pay $$$ to see her,
    but I guess her agents feel they must play halls greater than 2000 people (but the acoustics will always suffer) to make money.

    Regardless, I wait for her next DVD (as she is better “live” than on CD) and wait for another
    chance to see her again in person. I can’t wait to see what she we be like when she “grows up”!

    • Thanks for the interesting comments T. Kern. It reminds me of three venues that have been criticized before: first, her very first concert at Houston (I happen to think that is the gem); second, one of the concerts in California where the sound man was apparently an amateur–you could hear the feedback through the mike; and, third, interestingly, St. Petersburg. You really have to search for the articles on that. As I recall, the individual was the conductor for the St. Petersburg Orchestra and the comments were from one of the Russian Newspapers, written in Russian of course. I got some interesting translations with Google translator. Basically what he said was the sound system was nothing more then amateurish. Actually he was a little more severe in his comments then that. Anyway, liked your post.

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