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Good, Better and 'Great Performances'
August 9, 2012  | By Tom Brinkmoeller  | 17 comments

Simon Cowell's self-assessment notwithstanding, nothing can be great all of the time. That said, the always-reliable PBS series Great Performances has scheduled three musical specials this month, and though just one easily carries the "great" portion of that title, all three should provide good watching options for people who enjoy good music that is televised.

Jackie Evancho: Music of the Movies is the standout of the trio. In a television place-in-time where a "reality" series is devoted to children whose parents dress them up to look like off-color adults to compete in pageants, the 12-year-old Evancho is an antidote that celebrates natural reality.

Her voice is one many adults would ransom themselves to own. The amazing singing is complemented by a presence and composure for which most adults should be willing to pay a fortune. It's the rare person who watches her perform that doesn't wonder how this talent will further blossom with experience and maturity. Just in the two years since she finished second on America's Got Talent, her stage presence has greatly multiplied. From a Willy Wonka number ("Pure Imagination"), to Phantom of the Opera's almost-epic "Music of the Night," the young singer has it all under control. 

 The performance was recorded in front of an audience at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles in June. If the pre-teen was nervous, it didn't show. She appears equally at ease in speaking to the audience as when she's singing. She's at the far-good end of the spectrum that separates her from TLC's Toddlers and Tiaras, and that's something to be celebrated.

Jackie Evancho: Music of the Movies will air in some PBS markets Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET, but because it is pledge-drive programming, it will air at different (and in many cases, several) times in different cities. Check local listings where you live for times and dates. Here's a sneak peek at the show:

Great Performances presents another very watchable concert on Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. in some cities (check local listings). Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Celebration takes on the sizable job of putting three orchestras, a large vocal chorus, four conductors and five featured soloists in front of a large audience inside a two-hour broadcast and making it work. Though the many changing players sometimes make it look like an NFL game inside the two-minute warning, the music is grand, and presented in the way television does so well: giving the viewer the best seat in the house. 

Tanglewood is, among many things, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Its anniversary apparently is such a big thing that many wanted in on the celebration. It's almost over-the-top participatory in makeup, with the aforementioned BSO, the Boston Pops (left) and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras each separately getting stage time.

Conductors Keith Lockhart, John Williams, David Zinman and Andris Nelsons independently occupy the podium. Two pianists (Emmanuel Ax and Peter Serkin), cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter perform captivatingly, as does singer-songwriter-musician James Taylor. (The latter, surprisingly and seemingly out of character, sings three show tunes. Bill O'Donnell, Great Performances series producer, said in a phone interview that singing "Over the Rainbow," "Shall We Dance?" and "Old Man River" was Taylor's pick and consistent with concert material he regularly performs.)

Aside from boasting a roster that might daunt a census-taker, the Tanglewood concert should make even the warmest August evening a lot more tolerable.

Great Performances continues its tradition of featuring the Vienna Philharmonic's Summer Night Concert on Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. (check local listings). The outdoor concert from the gardens of the Austrian palace from which the Hapsburg dynasty once ruled, is marked by finely performed orchestral music.

It's also marked with what apparently is a known and accepted style of European visual presentation, but one that can provoke motion sickness stateside if viewed too intently. Where similar American broadcasts of serious music concentrate camera shots on the people who are making the music, the Austrian network's video feed (used by PBS) is hyperkinetic. Cameras float above and behind the performance venue, streak down long aisles toward the stage, wander the crowds to watch darkness-enveloped, semi-interested audience members and at times go on a travelog tour of the palace grounds. 

All told, it could be viewed as a video demonstration of ADSD. 

Two possible viewer solutions to this twitchy style of direction: Move to Austria, consume as much coffeehouse demitasses as the director seems to have enjoyed and, influenced by a caffeine high, it will make sense. Or turn the screen to the wall and just enjoy the music.

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Her voice is one many adults would ransom themselves to own
May 12, 2023   |  Reply
If singing was ever added to the Olympics, Jackie would win gold all the way. Move over, Michael Phelps.
Sep 14, 2019   |  Reply
I not so crazy with operatic singer,but some Broadway movies that I enjoy. Since I see this kid in you tube, I was in love with this kid,she is so amazing,I can't believe that was her voice,in that little body and I knew something strange going on,like some powerful magic that comes from above. Specially when she sing all those prayer songs,love songs with emotion. Words you can't describe the holiness. Even those Christmas songs. I never get tire listening on my computer,CD's and DVD. Even there are some good voices in the industry,but not as young as that age. All I can say is Wow! What a voice,well, intelligent and well mannered little girl. The parent was so lucky to have her,and having a happy ,loving family. God Bless you Jackie,we love you!
Aug 21, 2012   |  Reply
Felix Stover
Hey Gordon, your in the majority, I too have had a life altering experience when I found Jackie on u-tube. I now listen to no one or nothing else but the beautiful voice of Jackie Evancho. Many of my friends tease me and make fun of me but I don't care. I'm a fan for life. I'm a 55 year old truck driver and used to listen to classic rock. Now I listen to Jackie only. Tears come from my eyes, my breath catches in my throat and I tell everyone I meet about Jackie. I don't understand why she has affected me in such a profound way but I love it. Jackie ROCKS. I just watched Jackie's PBS special again tonight, totally awesome... Jackie ROCKS
Aug 19, 2012   |  Reply
Joan Kollar
After I bought the DVD Dream of Me I just couldn't imagine her concert Songs of the Movies could be so good!! Boy was I wrong. I taped it on my DVR and I watch it over and over again. I swear she has me hypnotized. My friends and family think I'm nuts. I am a fan forever. I preordered her CD Songs of the Silverscreen and am waiting for the DVD to come out.
Aug 24, 2012
Otto Sundar
As a big fan of Jackie living in Norway, I can hardly wait for her new album and to see her new PBS special and obtain it on Blu-ray. Jackie has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. Her performance is mesmerizing and moves me greatly. She is fast becoming a living legend in our time.
Aug 15, 2012   |  Reply
Richard Gardner
As I sit here I am envious of those that are watching Jackie tonight, Aug 11. We here in North Carolina have to wait another month until Sept 9th. Like Mr Messick, I have spent hours watching her videos on the net and yes choking p at times, especially when see performs The Lord's Prayer.
Aug 11, 2012   |  Reply
bob bartko
Mr. Brinkmoeller, Thank you for your great review. Spot on. Hope you continue to support the most amazing performer to grace this world.Can't wait for this performance on p.b.s. .[and the dvd to be released].
Aug 11, 2012   |  Reply
Gordon E. Messick
I would like to say I am Jackie’s biggest fan But in these last years of reading all the other comments professing their allegiance as her biggest fan, I am proud to just be one of the thousands and thousands. I am 73 years old and have never been an addicted fan of any performer, maybe only Barbara Streisand. Jackie’s personality, stage presence, beauty and voice have, in my opinion, no equal past or present. I am not ashamed to say I have, many times, spent all night watching, listening and shedding some tears and MESMERIZED by this wonderful child with the powerful and magnificent voice.
Aug 11, 2012   |  Reply
Harke deVries
Way back in 1954 I was a boy soprano in the australian boys choir.Back then there was no TV or even recordings available, so Now I wish I was that old again today, and able to sing a duet with Jackie, Her voice is deffinately angelic,and I just hope I live long enough to hear her sing on the worlds Operatic stages. You are the best Jackie
Aug 11, 2012
bob bartko
Mr. Messick , Your words mirror my thoughts exactly . thank you. I wish my friends would read this. They all think I am crazy , the way I talk about our angel . She gives me hope that the last years of my life will be worth living. Love everything about you , dear Jackie.
Aug 11, 2012
Lewis Norton
If singing was ever added to the Olympics, Jackie would win gold all the way. Move over, Michael Phelps.
Aug 10, 2012   |  Reply
Kathy M
The comment at the beginning of your story attributed to Simon Cowell that nothing can be great all of the time is fine, but it is not necessarily the whole truth. Not everyone is a fan of every Great Performances production, but one has to realize that many will love Jackie Evancho, others will love the Tanglewood Concert and others will love the Vienna Philharmonic's Summer Night Concert and some might not like any of them. Great Performances shares with its audiences, and they reach out to all. As an avid PBS supporter and Great Performances watcher, I say continue the great work of finding and presenting quality Great Performances..
Aug 10, 2012   |  Reply
joseph musharbash
Jackie, Jackie, Jackie... you're the only one I would listen to, seriously, the best singer EVER! Keep going, waiting for new songs ...GOD BLESS YOU.
Aug 10, 2012   |  Reply
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