O Holy Night
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O Holy Night
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Jackie Evancho is a 10-year-old soprano prodigy whose performances on "America's Got Talent" won the hearts of millions and brought her into the national spotlight.
Her new CD/DVD set, O Holy Night, features the Christmas favorites “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” plus the beautiful classics “Pie Jesu” and “Panis Angelicus” – both of which Jackie performed on "America’s Got Talent."
The DVD features Jackie’s performances from "America’s Got Talent" including the audition tape that landed Jackie her spot on AGT. It also includes an interview with Jackie filmed the week following the show’s finale.
DVD Track Listing:
1. Panis Angelicus (Youtube Audition)
2. O Mio Babbino Caro
3. Time To Say Goodbye
4. Pie Jesu
5. Ave Maria
6. An Interview With Jackie
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O Holy Night is an EP/DVD consisting of 4 Christmas songs as well as a separate disk containing videos of her journey through America's Got Talent last summer, along with a brief interview with Jackie. The music selections include outstanding versions of Pie Jesu, Silent Night and Panis Angelicus. But the standout track - the one I keep playing over and over in fact - is the title track O Holy Night. The arrangement builds though the song almost to the point of being pretentious, which might be problem were it not for the fact that her vocals are more than up to the challenge. Her voice shimmers - and in fact it soars with surprising power. More importantly, she brings an interpretive gift to the song far beyond her years. When Jackie sings a song like O Holy Night, it is as though she is really singing the story of the birth of Christ to us - and it is her talent as a storyteller which really comes through. Listen as she proclaims the word "proclaim"!
I have seen vocal gifts like this before, but never in a child - and in fact altogether too rarely in Jackie's chosen field of classical crossover. If there is one concession to her age in her vocals, it is that she does have to take more breaths than an adult singer might. Her remarkable interpretive ability more than compensates. Putting all of this together, Jackie Evancho is already among the best singers in her field
Apart from Jackie's vocals, I was tempted to downgrade the actual product because it was too short. The videos included on the performance DVD only included the actual performances, without judge comments and at times with even the applause cut short. I would have liked to have seen the entire performance segments as well as alternate footage, such as the judge reactions while she was singing. But at the end of the day, I couldnt bring myself to downgrade Jackie merely because I wished there was more Jackie.
A great debut from a terrific young performer.
I should add that my own musical tastes encompass everything from Balinese gamelan to avant-garde jazz to Western classical music to popular performers like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and the cast of Glee. Really, the only genre I dislike is so-called "easy listening" music--the kind they play in supermarkets and elevators. So my admiration of Jackie is neither despite nor because of her being a classical crossover artist. I believe her talent is so extraordinary it transcends genre, and the other reviews confirm this, with many saying they don't listen to classical crossover normally--but they listen to her.
And in other forums I've read testimonials by war vets who live in constant pain saying the only time they haven't been in pain was when they were listening to her. That's an extraordinary testimonial, transcending her remarkable sense of pitch, her perfect vibrato, her seamless transitions from one kind of vocal production to another, her richness of tone. Without those she couldn't achieve what she does, but having them isn't enough by itself. She makes normally dry-eyed folk tear up, without resorting to sentimentality or mawkishness. You get a hint when you see her just before starting to perform, and then the subtle shifts she shows when she actually starts. She becomes...something else. The happy 10 year old child vanishes, replaced by--a timeless vessel that draws us into the heart of the music. Then when she ends, she transitions back to the happy 10 year old kid. Truly remarkable to watch, and not obvious from the included DVD, since it only shows her actual performances.
But if you want to see what I'm talking about, go to YouTube and look up her performance at age 8 of O Mio Babbino Caro, a capella, without so much as a pitch pipe before she starts. There's no artifice, no tricks. Just Jackie being the two linked entities that cohabit her small body.
That should be enough to show that I'm a Jackie Evancho fan!
Here I'll get down to brass tacks.
1. Some have complained about this CD being short. Well, it isn't. It's a $7 EP with four DVD cuts thrown in. People should take responsibility for looking at the description of what they're getting before they hit the Buy button.
2. Some have complained that they wanted everything from America's Got Talent in which she appears onscreen, from the green room to her performances to the judges' comments and the audiences' reactions.
I'd buy such a DVD in a flash, as would, probably, most of her fans. Let's hope for such a DVD. Are you listening, AGT people? I'm OK with just the songs, as they appear on O Holy Night. I'd just like this as well. And I'm sure there's more footage that AGT shot of her but which didn't appear onscreen. Tossing in that as well would be the icing on the cake.
I wonder if the suits at AGT and at Columbia records realize what a phenomenon she is--after all, there's really no one like her--nor has there been in my lifetime (and I'm old). So she's outside their existing packaging/marketing paradigm.
3. Some have complained that the background accompaniments are too loud, too intrusive, too fancy-schmancy. I agree. My fear is that her parents have a kitschy streak--kind of a low/middlebrow approach to art that thinks more is always better--more fancy dresses, more makeup, more accompaniment, more over the top arrangements.
This shows in the album, which is packaged with a number of carefully posed photos--the kind I'd expect from a shopping mall photo studio specializing in family portraits with props. It's not that they're bad. You couldn't shoot a bad photo of Jackie Evancho if you tried.
But imagine if the photos instead included candid pics of her while she's performing, of her playing with her ducks, of her horsing around with her family, of her in school, of her rehearsing, of her watching other AGT performers from the green room, of her eating a sandwich. The photos provided impose a superficially artful wall between us and this charming child with the adult performing ability--just as the florid accompaniments get between us and her singing.
I remember as a child that the only family photos my mother wanted were formal, posed shots--no candids, nothing informal. She wanted total control, and candids weren't in her control. I hope that's not the case here--maybe it's just that all this fame is hitting the Evancho family like a ton o' bricks, and they're getting advice that leads to formalism. In which case I hope they can resist this in future. Part of Jackie's charm is her naturalness.
4. Some have complained that Jackie should stay at home playing with her dolls--that children should get a "normal" childhood--that her parents are pushing her, making her grow up too quickly.
I think such criticisms stem from people who don't understand that we aren't all born alike. When Jackie was born her DNA already guaranteed that she wasn't going to have a "normal" life. Talent like that is either given an outlet or stifled. You can't pretend it isn't there. It's clear from her interviews and her early YouTube clips that she wants this.
And it should be obvious that Jackie has great parents. I may criticize some of their artistic choices but no one can act like Jackie acts at age 10 without having grown up in a wonderful family. I know this from personal experience, having been raised, more or less, by alcoholics. Jackie is sooo lucky that way.
That said, Jackie has artistic genius. She is not "normal" and stifling that genius won't make her "normal." The fact that her family cut her AGT tour appearances from 25 to 10 shows that they're sensitive to her limits at a 10 year old. I think she's also getting the voice coaching she needs to ensure that she doesn't damage her pipes. People as artistically driven as her can do so without realizing it, but it looks like that's under control. I don't hear signs of her straining for the high notes when she's singing.
Jackie will be giving up a portion of a "normal" childhood for not just fame and fortune but for the chance to give her talents outlet, expression. That's priceless. It's true that some child stars wind up in rehab or worse. But you don't hear about the ones who just grew up and aren't in the tabloids all the time--because they aren't newsworthy. Conversely, some people who were raised normally also wind up in rehab or worse. Does that mean a normal upbringing makes you a junkie?
The fact is that Jackie already shows immense common sense. Look at the way she handles herself in interviews--including ones in front of huge audiences. As Mariah Carey's harmless husband pointed out repeatedly on AGT, "she always says the right thing." In so many varied situations coaching can only take you so far. She's naturally composed and diplomatic, yet never stiff or off-putting. This is yet another sign that she has the maturity--even at 10--to deal with her unusual life situation.
And what if her parents told her "Stop singing in public. Play with your dolls instead." It would be horrible for her, and drive a wedge between her and them.
The real comparison shouldn't be between Jackie Evancho and Charlotte Church--it should be with Emma Watson, costar of the Harry Potter series. She's another intelligent, level-headed girl--but who demanded that her parents let her audition for the series at about Jackie's age. Now she's a sophomore at Brown University, worth over $22 million, and she looks back on her childhood with satisfaction. Note that you never see her in the tabloids because she doesn't give them anything to talk about, despite her celebrity status.
5. Lastly, some have complained about her "classical crossover" genre of choice (not opera--and she politely but firmly corrects any interviewers who call her an opera singer). She is brilliant in this area, but I've listened to pop stuff she's done and she does that very well also. Charlotte Church was terrible at pop stuff as a teen (she has since learned how to do it). But Jackie Evancho understands the sometimes complex rhythms/phrasing/syncopation of good pop music, and has done so for years. So while nearly every opera singer's pop album has been an artistic train wreck, I believe Jackie will be able to work across genres successfully. Personally I hope she goes for the more serious, complex stuff (among her current repertoire Panis Angelicus would go in that direction). She'd make less money but she'll probably be set for life by the time she can drive a car, so I don't think that should be an issue. But I'll listen to whatever she chooses to sing, even if it's a cover album of Sons of the Pioneers' old singles.
Last night I watched her duet with Brit mezzo Katherine Jenkins. Jenkins looked a little unnerved by the experience--especially since Evancho was better. We should reserve a bit of sympathy for anyone who gets onstage with such an effortless scene-stealer as Jackie. That said, I hope she gets her wish to duet with Josh Groban soon. He's great at duets with a wide range of singers, both male and female, and I'm certain they'll make stunning music together.
Bottom line: buy this album. Yes, Christmas is past, but this is our only buy-able record of her in performance. It's worth having for that reason alone, and in the future you can go back to this to see what this world-famous artist was like at 10.
With charm, intelligence, and a depth of maturity beyond her years, the young soprano entrances with winning renditions of "Silent Night", "Panis Angelicus", the titular "O Holy Night", and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Pie Jesu" from "Requiem", the last of which the prolific composer arranged for her himself.
The DVD to which recipients of this entertainment set are treated shows Jackie's performances on "America's Got Talent", as well as an interview with the gracious young girl which reveals her to be very intelligent, but normal, modest, and charming.
Admirers should wish the young prodigy all the best in her future career--that she receives the proper guidance, and that she will avoid the pitfalls of so many who have trod her path before her.She provides proof that America does indeed have talent, and can make one truly believe that the best is yet to come for her.