Jackie Evancho crosses over to film classics

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Many have said Jackie Evancho sings like an angel. But she wanted to channel a different sort of spirit this Halloween.

"I was planning on being a ghost bride," she says with a wisp of a giggle. "I had red contacts, a dress and blood all over."

It was not to be. When Hurricane Sandy scuttled trick-or-treating in most communities until Saturday, it meant that the Richland phenom would miss it. While her friends are going house to house on Saturday, the 12-year-old entertainer will be performing in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"I have been traveling a lot doing concerts and tours," she says.

With two years on the road, she now spends about 60 percent of her time performing. This is her longest tour yet, including a March 12 appearance at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh. The tour supports her new CD, "Songs From the Silver Screen," which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 among classical albums.

The disc takes her down the path of Broadway and movie-musical tunes, including ones from kid-centric films like "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from "The Lion King"; "I See the Light" from "Tangled"; and "Reflection" from "Mulan." Her favorite is "The Music of the Night" from "The Phantom of the Opera." Actually, that is underselling it: "It is my ultimate favorite," she says of "Phantom."

While Jackie has seen most of these films and stage productions, she doesn't feel it is absolutely necessary for a performer.

"I understand what the song is about by listening to it ... and reading the lyrics. A lot of poetry I read uses similes and metaphors."

It's been more than two years since she became famous as a 10-year-old singing on "America's Got Talent." Jackie feels she has developed as an artist since 2010.

"I have grown a lot as I work with different musicians and sing more songs," she says.

While she has not learned how to read music, she never stops honing that famed voice, with her mother serving as her voice teacher. "We are working on tone." There's another family connection on the new disc: a duet with her older brother Jacob, 14, who is not pursuing a singing career, she says.

Jackie makes it clear this album's departure from classical music and opera doesn't presage a move to pop music. She wants to stay in the classical crossover genre.

"I am not interested in singing in any other style. Not a lot of people do it, and it is my passion."

And what of growing up? Well, even there she is bit out of the norm. She is adjusting to pre-teen fashion by modeling for Guess Kids.

"Modeling is a lot different than singing," she says. "It requires a lot more focus. You really need to work with the photographer. Sometimes you can't always please them and I want to.

"I love trying on all the clothes, but I am a little bit less fashionable [at home]."

Nothing like those formal dresses on stage, or that ghoulish one for her lost Halloween.


Post-Gazette classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod: adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750. He blogs at www.post-gazette.com/classicalmusings.


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