Saturday, April 23, 2011

Text of interview of Jackie Evancho by Ms. Winfrey

I don't think this video of this interview is available online, thanks to Oprah's lawyers, but here's the text of Jackie with Oprah Winfrey, done on October 20, 2010.

Normally I'd edit out the verbal bobbles found in everyone's everyday speech--but I thought Jackie's  fans being who they are, they'd want a fairly exact transcript. So this is it:

[Aftter running clips of her America's Got Talent appearances and after her singing Pie Jesu live]
Oprah: So that was, uh, 10 year old Jackie Evancho with her powerhouse voice on America’s Got Talent. [to Jackie] You have had quite the summer young lady.
Jackie: Yeah, I have [giggles]
Oprah: So I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie at my house—she was kind enough to come to my house a couple of weeks ago, when all of my girls from South Africa were over, uh, looking at colleges, and you sang there, and at the end of, of singing, you said something that I was so impressed with you said you recognize that your voice was a gift from God.
Jackie: mmm-hm.
Oprah: Yeah. When did you know that?
Jackie: Um, well I I’ve always known that. And I say three prayers every night to make sure that God knows I thank him so much.
Oprah: Really.
Jackie: mmm-hm.
Oprah: That’s great.  
[Oprah takes Jackie’s hand briefly as audience applauds]
Keep that up, will ya? ‘Cause God loves appreciation.
Jackie: [giggles]
God loves appreciation so--When you were doing America’s Got Talent and the world was just getting to know you a little bit then, were you just out of your mind nervous?
How would you calm yourself every time?
Jackie: Well, I didn’t. The adrenaline helped me to realize that you’re on a big stage and you just have to deal with it. It just helped me to usually get this through.
Oprah: Really.
Jackie: hm! [nods]
Oprah: So Jackie has been on tour with America’s Got Talent for the past few weeks and. We caught up with her between shows back in her home town of Pittsburgh, hanging out with her two brothers and her little sister Rachel, who’s the cutest thing. Take a look.
[video of Jackie & family at home]
During video, Jackie says: It’s like you’re the only person in the whole world when you’re on stage. You’re standing there. This is the moment. And you’re gonna shine.
Mike: The moment Jackie steps off the stage, it’s back to Jackie being one of my four children. She’s not treated any differently…
Jackie: We have a lot of animals. We have about 28 pets.
When I’m at school, everything is really normal.
[in classroom of Mrs. Yannotti, Grade 5]
I love learning things—‘cause that’s fun.
Mrs. Yannott: Jackie’s a great student. She’s just what you see on TV. She’s always poised, but she’s just your average typical fun energetic fifth grader.
Callie [Jackie’s friend]: What I like about Jackie is that she’s very kind and sweet, and she’s nice to everyone.
Jackie: What makes me happiest is being with my family being able to play with my friends and being able to SING is really fun too.
[end of video]
Oprah: Wow. Great.
Jackie: [giggles]
Oprah: So how are all the other kids treating you after this big summer you had? How how was it going back in were you a little nervous going back into fifth grade?
Jackie: Definitely I was definitely really nervous. But. You know. I always say to myself “Jackie you’re just a normal kid you know?” So you just have to act like—you kn-- you just have to act like these COMMENTS are normal. ‘Cause you have to get used to it.
Oprah: Yeah. Unh-hunh.
Jackie: So um when I go to school--I’m always happy—because--it’s a normal kid thing.
Oprah: It’s a normal kid thing. And how’s fifth grade treating you?
Jackie: Oh it’s working out great. Ah…
Oprah: What do you love? What is what is your favorite subject?
Jackie: Writing. I love writing.
Oprah: Writing. So do you write, uh, like, stories, poems, what?
Jackie: I write almost everything actually Songs, poems, stories, and stories out of every genre too.
Oprah: “Out of very genre too.” But of course you do.
[audience laughs]
Is there any singer uh is there any singer you would you know you have a desire to, to,  like do a duet with, or sing with—is there somebody?
Jackie: There’s several actually. There’s Josh Groban,
[name tag appears onscreen saying:
World’s Youngest Opera Singer]
Oprah: Josh Groban, that’d be good...
Jackie: Charlotte Church,
Oprah: Charlotte Church
Jackie: Andrea Bocelli,
Oprah: Andrea Bocelli
Jackie: and--this girl isn’t really my kind of type of singing
Oprah: Yes?
Jackie: But it’s Lady Gaga.
Oprah: Lady Gaga.
[audience applauds as Jackie giggles]
Oprah: Different genre
Jackie: Exactly [giggles]
Oprah: Different genre...different genre but I I I’d like to see it for a day …just the, the two of you…yeah. But all of those’ll be great people to sing with. Jackie is releasing four songs on a new CD called “O holy night” with a bonus DVD too. And it is out November 16. I’m gonna go pre-order that. I’m not even gonna ask you to give me one for free. I’m gonna I’m really gonna pre-order that because yours is the voice I wanna hear in my house this Christmas.
Jackie: Thank you.
Oprah: Thank you so much. Jackie Evancho [applause]
Great. Wow. Thank you. We’ll be right back. [getting up to hug Jackie, who reciprocates] I’m gonna pre-order that CD.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pre-review of Jackie Evancho's "Dream with me" CD due out June 14

Scan the audience while Jackie Evancho is singing and you'll see maybe a quarter of them have tears streaming down their cheeks—with the rest not far behind.

This is not because she's a child. She isn’t a “child singer” anyway. She’s a singer who happens to be a child. Nor is it because she’s singing a sad song. Her magic works whatever the song.

Nor does it matter what you normally listen to. Jackie’s devotees include fans of opera, classical music, classical crossover, pop, rock, country, heavy metal, world music, easy listening…even people who don't care about music--except for Jackie's.

The diversity of “Dream with me”’s selections reflects her fans’ diversity. And she finds new depths even in songs you think another singer owns.

In performance, you see a happy child walk quickly onstage. But as she opens her mouth to sing, she becomes Orpheus…until the instant the song is done, and the child reappears, smiling, waving with both hands.

Even the experts can’t fully explain how she does this, because she’s outside their previous experience. They start by talking about the richness of her voice. I played "Angel" from this album for a friend who'd never heard of her. He said he pictured a woman in her mid-30s who looked like Nana Mouskouri, until I showed him what she looked like. His jaw dropped.

And the experts have marveled over Jackie's mastery of her instrument--of how she maintains a full, consistent tone throughout her range. Most singers have audible transitions. They also marvel at her portamento—the way she works the notes and the melodic line (without overdoing it).

They marvel over her musical intelligence. She is a serious singer. She doesn't just want you to admire the beauty of her voice; she wants to take you somewhere.

Here’s a child with a happy upbringing who sings convincingly about things she’s never experienced herself, because she's able to find the profound universals in whatever she sings about.

So when she performs "Lovers," from the Chinese movie "House of Flying Daggers," she sings about the longing in romantic love that it shares with other kinds of love-- the longing you can feel when any kind of love is denied you.

The movie’s sound track uses the formidable mezzo Kathleen Battle, who does a beautiful job with it. But Jackie’s version is even better.

You can hear many of the songs from the new album on YouTube, mostly in low-fi audience recordings. They’ll whet your appetite for this album.

As will accounts by those who have worked with her on “Dream with me.” They marvel at her professionalism—how she instantly grasps what producers tell her; how dedicated she is to recording the best performance possible.

This professionalism extends even to interviews, where she’s invariably thoughtful and diplomatic—yet so quick on her feet she never sounds rehearsed. She’s confident but never cocky, friendly but never gushy.

Sometimes a great performer’s offstage antics detract from your appreciation of her performances. But with Jackie, the more you know about her as a human being, the more you appreciate her in performance.

The only danger in getting this CD is that it may make you dissatisfied with listening to other singers, as many fans now say.

People gush over performers all the time. This is different. Listen to anything she’s done—right back to her “O mio babbino caro” at age 8--and you’ll know. And you’ll pre-order “Dream with me” so you can get it as soon as possible.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jackie Evancho's 11th birthday is today

Jackie Evancho is not a child singer. She's a professional singer who is a child. If you haven't heard her, try this appearance on the Today show from last Novembrer 9. There are hundreds of clips of her on YouTube--some with over 7 million views.

I wrote this to commemorate her 11th birthday, which is today:

The 100th day of 2000 was what journalists call a slow news day. There were presidential elections in Greece and Georgia. The British version of the Oscars ceremony was held. “Topsy Turvy” didn’t win Best Picture, though this unconventional account of Gilbert & Sulivan’s creation and production of “The Mikado” rivaled “Amadeus” in its account of how artistic creativity flows from inspiration to actual production.

And “Buena Vista Social Club”’s inexplicably didn’t win, despite its graceful and haunting sound track, which will be remembered long after CDs of the music from winner “American Beauty” are in the nickel bins at used CD stores. “Buena Vista Social Club” is a documentary about legendary American guitarist Ry Cooder almost singlehandly reviving the long-vanished careers of a group of elderly Cuban musicians.

In North America, football and hockey teams had games here and there, with winners and losers, but I don’t care. My wife and I almost certainly went to church on that April Sunday, enjoying the balmy spring weather here, with a high of 64°, low of 51°, clear skies, gentle breezes.

Elsewhere it wasn’t so nice. I’ve been in half of our nation’s states plus Puerto Rico, but not Pennsylvania (except from 40,000 feet). However, the Farmer’s Almanac filled me in on conditions for that day. Richland Township, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, got whacked by a surprisingly cold day of drizzle and wet snow, considering that it was April already, and Saturday had started out nice. But the next day only got to a high of 39°, low 26°. A little over half an inch of water in various forms, including ice pellets.

Kind of a miserable day (at least by California standards) to be having your second child, but Mike and Lisa Evancho did anyway. And I’m sure that when Lisa was holding Jackie in her arms for the first time that day, the fact that that little face would become, eleven years later, possibly the most recognizable face of any child that age in America—that the sounds coming out of that teeny mouth would be transfixing millions of rapt listeners instead of just that infant’s mommy and daddy—those facts had to be the last thing that might have crossed their minds. It wasn’t even the mysterious magic of your first child, where you don’t know the drill yet. Joy, yes, of course. Relief too, and not a little. Two arms, two legs, right number of fingers and toes, breathing like a champ. Whew! Still, they had been there before.

And over the next seven years, did she ever give them an inkling of the fact that she was more than just a beautiful, cheerful, joyful, thoughtful little girl? Was there ever a hint of the interpretive genius within—the one that materializes instantly when she opens her mouth to sing, then dissolves back into the happy child the instant she stops…that pair of transformations that has by now been marked by literally millions of astonished viewers?

Have Mike and Lisa ever rummaged through their memories, or asked the grandparents and the other relatives, when and whether they noticed any hint of what was slowly coiling up within this child—some comment she’d make that gave them pause, but only for a moment? Some sign? Portent? Anything? At least a sign of not having a problem with stage fright—of loving to perform for others? Of course a lot of people love to perform who really, really shouldn’t. And, for some, vice-versa. It’s a happy confluence of traits when a Jackie comes along with both.  

Of course it’s hard to reflect on past years when the present has become a tornado. But the biographers are coming. I’d wager the Evanchos have already been approached by reputable publishers wanting to chronicle Jackie’s life and times. This may seem absurd on the face of it—but not to those who’ve heard her. (By “heard” I don’t just mean having been exposed to her singing, of course; I mean “heard.”)

And now she’s 11—in the prime of her life (that’s a mathematical joke)—and her prior prime was when she first started singing seriously. And her next prime will be the target of the saying “The worst two years in a woman’s life are when she’s 13—and when her daughter is.” But it’s hard to believe that Jackie won’t be the exception to that warning.

Because while she may seem too good to be true to cynics, I get the very strong feeling that it’s true that she’s just that good.

Happy birthday.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gimme an Emmie!

Last Thursday my wife & I watched the Gray's Anatomy Musical. Seems like many long-running TV shows do a musical episode sooner or later. Often this is a Very Special Episode designed to garner support for one of those TV awards. Which is why I call this Gray's Gimme an Emmie episode.

It didn't work for us. For one thing, the premise was weak, because it was presented, more or less, as one of the characters, badly injured in a car accident, imagining that she and others were singing.

But they broke that conceit by having singing going on outside the injured person's POV (point of view). Making it a collective fantasy, same as in the traditional Hollywood musical. (see the song "Till there was you from...what was it, DamnYankees?).

They used original music which was rock-y rather than Broadway-y...and forgettable. It looked like the actors did their own singing, with lots more singing assigned to the better singners, led by Sara Ramirez, who came to Gray's from a leading singing role in the Broadway musical spoof "Spamalot," in which she excelled. So there was nothing wrong with her voice. It was just what she was given to sing, and how.

When "Scrubs" did its musical, the conceit came from a patient with some brain disease that caused her to hallucinate that she and everyone else was singing, and it stuck to her POV, and the music was better--that episode worked. It also had some humor, while "Gray's" was strictly dramatic--which also failed to utilize Sara Ramirez' formidable musical comedy skills.

Earlier, the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" musical, also using original music, also mixing humor and drama, was wonderfully successful. It this fantasy show the conceit was a Broadway demon who magicks everyone into singing--and their song reveals what they've been hiding from everyone else. So the episode doesn't just comment on everyone's situation, as "Gray's'" does--it drives the plot forward for the whole season, it doesn't violate POV, it's musically good, and, since one of the characters had summoned the demon for selfish reasons and not realizing the demon was demonically dangerous, so there's also the underlying moral of a cautionary tale about the Law of Unforseen Consequences. "Gray's" stays shallow.

Probably the father of all TV musical episodes is "The Singing Detective" by Dennis Potter, shown on PBS. That was truly a-ma-zing. Look it up (not the crummy American remake, though).