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Your voice still echoes in my heart
July 7, 2014 2:28 AM   Subscribe

Not quite 11 years old at the time, Jackie Evancho performs the song "Lovers" on her Dream With Me concert tour. Revel not only in Evancho's rapturous vocals, but also in the sublime accompaniments on zither, 2-string fiddle, bamboo flute and taiko drums.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
How is that sound emanating from an 11-year-old? Wow.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:34 AM on July 7


I know right, GallonOfAlan? She's like Clara Oswald's description of the TARDIS, but for opera; it's smaller on the outside.
posted by ZaneJ. at 3:59 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I almost wrote a very long comment about my reaction to this, but soon found someone had already done it better than I would have.
Just what do we hear when we put on a Jackie Evancho recording? “O Mio Babbino Caro” will do for a start. One is startled immediately by the lush sound that Evancho makes, which would never be expected from somebody her age. But then the worries start. Her interpretation seems little more than imitation — almost ventriloquism — with scarcely a trace of originality. She is comfortable only within a small range. The rest of the time, she is reaching hard for high notes or scooping for low ones. Her phrasing is shaky and unsure; her anxiety is palpable; there is nothing “easy” or free-flowing about her performance. All in all, figuratively speaking, one has the sense that she is trying very hard to fill gigantic shoes that may well fit her someday but could easily wreck the way she walks if she persists in wearing them now.

And this is the problem. At the age of 11, Jackie Evancho should be permitted to sing “like a girl”; instead, by her own design or not, she is singing as a mannered and uncomfortable woman. Why not folk songs and smart pop music and maybe some of the simpler Schubert lieder instead of grand opera? Why not let her sing in a chorus, work with adults who will love her, encourage her, nurture her talent and make her into the finest artist she can be?

Indeed, the cult of the prodigy has always struck me as one of the most debased aspects of the music world. If I were king, I think I would put some kind of ultra-restrictive law on the books that would permit the best and the brightest of our children to flower to ripeness, follow their curiosities, study their art, learn about joy and heartbreak and, ultimately, to turn into people before they are trotted out as the latest phenomenon.

Tim Page, "Talented young musicians run the risk of burning out early"


posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:16 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Wow. With a voice that strong in that range at that age she may wind up a dramatic contralto before she's finished...
posted by jim in austin at 4:47 AM on July 7


That was spooky.
posted by HuronBob at 5:38 AM on July 7


At the age of 11, Jackie Evancho should be permitted to sing “like a girl”; instead, by her own design or not, she is singing as a mannered and uncomfortable woman. Why not folk songs and smart pop music and maybe some of the simpler Schubert lieder instead of grand opera? Why not let her sing in a chorus, work with adults who will love her, encourage her, nurture her talent and make her into the finest artist she can be?

Man, are we watching the same performance? This person I'm watching has a unique gift, and is expressing it with serenity and joy and self-possession, in the company of fine adult musicians.

Why should this particular girl sing "like a girl"? Why can't she just be who she is?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:51 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I have a deep, deep soft spot for the genre of music I call "PBS fundraising music" - Celtic Woman, Susan Boyle, Josh Groban, all that stuff. I don't know why but it all reduces me to an emotional puddle. (It's become a joke in my house with my kids - "Mom! Dad's watching Celtic Woman and crying again!") Jackie Evancho fits squarely in that wheelhouse, and I think she's amazing.

Also, she recently recorded that song from Game of Thrones.
posted by jbickers at 5:59 AM on July 7


I agree that it sounded like imitation, and not her real voice. I guess it's possible that is her real voice, and that her artistry will develop as she matures, but I don't see it here.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:06 AM on July 7


Man, are we watching the same performance?

Yeah, it's the strangest thing... The arrangement is unspeakably lovely, but I can't quite put my finger on why she's hitting that uncanny valley spot for me. The Game of Thrones song jbickers linked game me goosebumps, but the FPP song made me feel oddly ill at ease. I somehow kept expecting that this would go the way of Llorando from Mulholland Drive.
posted by mochapickle at 6:13 AM on July 7


For comparison: Kathleen Battle
posted by mochapickle at 6:31 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


i find it surprising that this is the first post on jackie evancho to hit metafilter. i love her.

as to why she doesn't sing pop music instead of grand opera? she does. i'm pretty sure she's classified as a straight up crossover artist.

can you feel the love tonight
my heart will go on
bridge over troubled water
angel
let it be (duet with her brother)
posted by nadawi at 6:36 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Quite apart from the vocals (which my brain is still trying to parse), it makes me sad when a piece includes taiko mostly for show, and doesn't put them to good use. I mean, the odaiko player had a soft mallet for crying out loud. That just ain't right.
posted by Foosnark at 6:38 AM on July 7


Her 2011 NPR Tiny Desk Concert of Handel's "Ombra mai fu" is notable for how she suddenly becomes an 11 year old girl again after she finishes...
posted by jim in austin at 8:13 AM on July 7


The arrangement is unspeakably lovely, but I can't quite put my finger on why she's hitting that uncanny valley spot for me.

For me at least, it's that she has a mature, dark tone that sounds like something an adult singer ~40 years old would produce; but her vibrato, phrasing, and vowel shapes sound more typical of a young child singer in training.
posted by wondermouse at 8:40 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The orchestration is lovely. The singing is unnatural and I'm incredibly sick of the attention that is given to fake "opera" singers to the detriment of actual opera singers who have worked their tails off for years and years to get where they are.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:16 AM on July 7


paleyellowwithorange: Why should this particular girl sing "like a girl"? Why can't she just be who she is?

Because this isn't "who she is". That is not what a natural pre-pubescent girl's voice sounds like. She is artificially darkening her tone in imitation of what someone has told her classical singers are supposed to sound like. And she is unnaturally forcing vibrato (watch how her chin wobbles) rather than letting it happen naturally through proper breath technique.

This approach to singing will result in jaw tension and throat strain, and all because some people think it's neat to watch a little girl sound like some approximation of a grown-up singer.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:25 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


she's not an opera singer, she's a classical crossover/operatic pop singer - she's in the same genre as josh groban, charlotte church, the celtic women, and sarah brightman. if your complaint is that opera isn't as popular as classical crossover, fine, but your disagreement isn't with her. do i wish that country radio was actually filled with country instead of pop country? absolutely. but it seems silly to blame taylor swift for that.
posted by nadawi at 11:01 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


That's not quite the correct analogy. She is singing operatic music (sometimes) in a manner that is meant to imitate operatic singing (sort of). And there are tons of people out there who now think that Evancho and other America/Britain's Got Talent competitors are what "opera singers" are supposed to sound like.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:37 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


it's totally the correct analogy - lots of people think taylor swift and blake shelton are country music - they mimic instruments and sounds that are from actual country music and get all of the popular recognition of being country music - all because pop country is (and probably always will be) more popular than the authentic stuff (which isn't a new problem - hence why wille nelson, et al were in a group they called "the outlaws" - because they weren't playing pop country like their contemporaries).

this isn't something that is unique to operatic music. you can see it all over popular music. in every genre there are those who make the money and get the recognition by making their music more mainstream and palatable, and those who are usually infinitely more talented who play to smaller crowds for less recognition. if all the classical crossover music were to disappear tomorrow, people wouldn't flock to opera in droves, they'd just buy more celine dion or jennifer hudson albums.
posted by nadawi at 11:53 AM on July 7


Yeah, I'm not suggesting people would run out and buy the real thing if Jackie Evancho didn't exist. But imagine if, say, a bunch of amateur self-taught teenaged ballerinas made a splash on America's Got Talent, and then got popular touring around throwing in popular classical ballet stuff like Swan Lake or the Nutcracker with the Thriller dance or something.

The people who have trained as dancers since they were children would immediately recognize all of the technical issues - sickled ankles, improper port de bras, whatever. And everyone would tell the trained dancers how amazing those amateur dancers are.

That's where I'm coming from. I can certainly see where Taylor Swift would be frustrating to someone raised on Hank Williams, but there is actually an objectively right and wrong way to sing classical music, or sing in a classical style. It's frustrating.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:14 PM on July 7


it's not even people raised on hank williams - there are countless amazing current real country artists out there who can't break into nashville and are told that they are alt-country (when they're doing the real deal) and being told they need to be more like keith urban to get on the radio. it seems like this one is just closer to your personal sacred cows than other genres of music. i can go on and on and on about how green day is not punk rock, but it's totally understandable to me why they were more popular than real punk - that's what pop music is.

while there is an objectively right way to do the music that has similarities with what evancho does (and countless others, long before the days of america's got talent), that's not what she's doing. look at any of her track listings and most sung songs, she (and her handlers) seem to be really clear on the point that she's singing classical crossover. the uneducated not understanding the difference isn't her responsibility. there's a market for this type of pop music and she's filling it really well.
posted by nadawi at 12:25 PM on July 7


It's seemed to me that one of the rites of passage of country music is to have a long enough career to start complaining about how the new generation "isn't real country", just like how people complained about you when you broke into the business. Just as Frank Sinatra complained about Elvis in language pretty similar to the criticisms that he received when he himself became a hit, and Elvis in turn complained about the Beatles.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:23 PM on July 7


That's not quite the correct analogy. She is singing operatic music (sometimes) in a manner that is meant to imitate operatic singing (sort of). And there are tons of people out there who now think that Evancho and other America/Britain's Got Talent competitors are what "opera singers" are supposed to sound like.

My take on this sort of thing is that a lot of people don't actually care for opera, but they do enjoy seeing a child sing eerily like an adult. If they are going to bother to listen to any kind of operatic singing at all, it's going to be from a precocious child singer. The magic of child opera-ish singers like Jackie Evancho is in watching the performance, seeing that sound come out of her face and being amazed by it because wow she's 11. Do people actually think she belongs in a production at the Met, or do they just like watching a child sing like that?
posted by wondermouse at 3:17 PM on July 7


her age is totally a factor in her allure, but classical crossover/pop opera is filled with people who are adults. it's a genre that really irritates people who love opera, but she's not the only one singing that style.
posted by nadawi at 3:46 PM on July 7


I'm familiar with the classical crossover genre. I don't even hate it - some of the people in it have very nice voices. I do think the "child operatic singer" is a separate kind of beast because the whole child aspect is such a strong part of the appeal.
posted by wondermouse at 4:32 PM on July 7


she's well into her teen years and still selling like hotcakes. she seems to be turning into a bonafide classical crossover artist. i guess time will tell if she and the world are still interested in her pursuing this in 10 years.
posted by nadawi at 5:06 PM on July 7


Still staggering out of the uncanny valley. I've looked up more of her music, and the uncanny valley thing doesn't happen so much when she's doing other styles. She seems more... human.

In the Let It Be duet with her brother (nadawi linked above), she's poised and absolutely charming. This duet of The Prayer shows off her voice as well, although she's 2-3 years older than she was in the FPP song. Notice the deep breaths she takes, and the way the microphone responds to how close she holds it to herself. There's a lot of life in that song.

Back in the valley, the FPP link doesn't sound quite live to me. It feels so even. (The drums don't always seem to match up, either.) So while there's no doubt in my mind that that's her singing, is it possible she's singing from a track? That could account for part of that uncanny gap.
posted by mochapickle at 5:10 PM on July 7


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