‘Dream With Me’: A new album and TV special for Jackie Evancho

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Last summer, Culture Monster followed the story of then 10-year-old singer Jackie Evancho as she captured the nation’s heart as the mid-season Youtube audition contestant on ‘America’s Got Talent.’

We chatted with experts to see if she was the real deal, mused about the changes in her voice, had a look at other children with adult voices and speculated on what she might sing to bag the million-dollar prize.


In the end, Evancho placed second to bluesman Michael Grimm, a result some commentators put down to the voters’ desire to protect her from the dark side of a career in showbiz, in particular the Las Vegas show that was also part of the prize.

The inevitable Christmas record, a four-track EP, was certified platinum, but for the most part, Evancho has kept a reasonably low profile. Her parents appear to be wisely playing the long game, doing their best to keep her in school and at home with her three siblings and various animals.

In recent week, however, she’s been all over the place promoting her full-length album ‘Dream With Me’ (released Tuesday) and a PBS ‘Great Performances’ special with David Foster, ‘Dream With Me in Concert’ (Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. on KOCE).

Of the 14 tracks on the album, remarkably only four put us in mind of a marketing team deciding how best to maximize the appeal of the album. If that reeks of cynicism, consider that the duet with Barbra Streisand is Evancho lightly embellishing a recording Streisand made in 1985.

‘Nessun Dorma,’ a tenor aria that doesn’t play to any of Evancho’s strengths, is included because buyers recognize the title from Paul Potts and Luciano Pavarotti. Her duet with Susan Boyle doesn’t flatter either party, and while ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ suits her voice better, given the amount of alternative repertoire that is a much better fit, we are perplexed by its inclusion.

We had a chance to hear Evancho in live performance in Toronto a couple of weeks ago and her voice has matured quite a lot over the past 10 months. The darkness sounds less forced, her low register is much stronger and the voice has a bit more heft -- as much as child can have, at least.

Her range is still comparable to any serious chorister of a similar age and the vibrato and covering can be taught, but what makes us feel like she will survive the journey from child star to adult performer is her magnificent sense of pitch, her natural ability to shape phrases and the ease with which she performs. This is what makes her a joy to listen to. Since she’s still a kid, and we all have affectations when we’re learning, we’ll pretend we didn’t notice the Brightman arms.

There are some very exciting moments in the PBS special, most notably her performance of ‘Dark Waltz’ as seen in the video above. It’s Evancho doing what she does best in a song that highlights her strengths. It’s not on the album though, so be sure to set your DVR.

--Marcia Adair