The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon

Views and Reviews: Charles Knott

The Best Concert I Have Ever Attended

Several weeks ago I got a telephone call imploring me to check out a public television broadcast of a remarkable musical performance. I did as I was told and joined the program in the middle of one of their unconscionably tedious fundraisers. Soon, however, I saw what all the fuss was about. Jackie Evancho was singing!

Normally, I do not rhapsodize about theatrical performances. Long ago, I was mocked and chided, indirectly and unintentionally (and unknowingly, since he was already long since dead)—mocked and chided, I say, by George Bernard Shaw, who was one of the all-time great music critics. In his Don Juan in Hell one character ridicules another with the line, “You sound like an hysterical woman fawning on a fiddler!” Since then (I was 19 at the time), I have been stingy with praise for performers except when I have been truly overwhelmed.

In this case, what I saw on TV was an eleven-year-old girl, beautiful as an angel, playful as a puppy, and utterly unpretentious, singing with the full-throated ease and the physical composure of a middle-aged, gifted, and well-seasoned opera singer. Her childlike radiance and childlike body movements, contrasting with her glorious voice—well, put it this way: I am rarely so moved so quickly. I reached for tissues with one hand and my credit card with the other. I bought two tickets for the pit, and performance night finally arrived.

My son Jonathan and I had third row center seats. I suffered through two long pieces by the Atlanta Symphony (why will they continue to play the “Blue Danube”? Stanley Kubrick immortalized that piece forever as symbolizing the infinite emptiness and meaninglessness of space in 2001: a Space Odyssey—and it worked well for the purpose: ta ta ta ta, dum dum, dum dum…but, I digress). I had stuffed both pockets with tissues, expecting to humiliate myself publicly by weeping out my sentimental and aesthetic appreciation. I feared this would bring scolding looks from those I might be sitting among, and Shaw’s biting imprecation was continuously ringing in my head.

My first live view of this little girl occurred as I looked past the corner of the stage curtain. She was in the shadows, but because of her size, I knew it was she. She was jumping around on one foot, trying to get her shoe on. From this moment forward, I was beside myself with delight.

She missed her first introduction: “Here is Miss Jackie Evancho!” Long silence and no Jackie Evancho. Then again: “Here is Miss Jackie Evancho!” This beautiful little girl came rushing onto the stage as if she were late to a party and could not possibly be more delighted to have arrived. She waved to people in the audience and, apparently, each audience member took it quite personally. The applause was thunderous. Her small body reacted to the roar of the audience by squirming and dancing, and she began clapping her own hands to join into this exuberant celebration.

Then, the audience quieted, the orchestra sounded, and she leaned into the microphone with an effortless concentration and composure. Her entire body became a musical instrument. She put herself aside and became music. She completely enchanted her audience of perhaps 2200 people, with no hint of stage fright. She was among friends and, quite as much as they were, she was enjoying the miracle of music. Once the concert was underway, she received a standing ovation for everything she sang. She could do no wrong; we could never get enough of her. And she gave us the ultimate delight of enjoying us as much as we enjoyed her. To my amazement, I did no hysterical fawning. Instead, I merely had the most enjoyable night I can ever remember in the theater. She is truly a healing force.

Her DVD is called Dream with Me, and it has many moments of great beauty. It is over-edited, however—it would have been much better if the techies had put the camera on her and gone home. The only thing I have seen that captures her personality as well as her talent is a YouTube segment called “Jackie Evancho—Nella Fantasia & Interview.” Check it out.

Copyright ©2011 Barbara Knott • All Rights Reserved