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.

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