In the first week of September 2010, the viewers of the television show America’s Got Talent manned the phone lines and voted for their favorite performers. Out of the original performers who competed before national television audiences this summer, only four remain. On September 15, one will receive the coveted prizes of one million dollars and an opportunity to perform on the Las Vegas Strip.
As a music education minor, a clarinetist for over forty years, and a person who loves good music and excellent performances, I offer here my observations on the final four performers and some of their non-AGT performances I found on YouTube.
This ten year old singing sensation does indeed sound, at some time in her young career, as if she “swallowed a grownup,” words judge Howie Mandell used. I enjoy her voice and remember similar child vocal prodigies like Connie Talbot (second place seven year old finalist of the 2007 Britain’s Got Talent) and Charlotte Church. One of my favorite Charlotte Church selections, Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Requiem, was sung by Jackie Evancho to put her into the Final Four.
Church is 24 years old now and a mother to two. The novelty of the child singer has somewhat worn off although she is still performing. After five years, she has come out with her sixth album “Back To Scratch.” I wonder if Jackie Evancho will eventually have six albums to her credit.
In any event, Jackie has already received an opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in December. I can imagine Jackie Evancho’s performances being distributed on DVDs and CDs. Her charm and innocence as well as her vocal stylings would translate to most media venues.
She did, in fact, release a 2009 CD entitled “Prelude to a Dream” which includes the Don McLean song “Starry, Starry Night,” another of my favorites. Although this CD appears to be out of publication, I discovered one on eBay which already had fourteen bids and a going price of $76! A check of Amazon.com revealed that not only are the CDs not available but the selections are not available for downloading in MP3 format.
She has also been honored by the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a “Jackie Evancho Week” according to the September 13 edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Her rendition of the National Anthem at PNC Park opened the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team’s home season in 2010.
Will her voice change as she reaches the age of puberty?
Would a twenty year old female vocalist with Jackie Evancho’s voice have gone as far as she has on America’s Got Talent? Is her success due mostly to the “child prodigy” factor? Or is it her voice that wows the fans despite her age?
National Anthem at PNC Park
Jackie and Jake Duet
At the Hard Rock Cafe
His facial makeup rivals the best of the Beijing opera masks. His costumes range from that of a dandy in the French royal courts to Harlequin. His on-stage persona is intriguing, flirtatious, and saucy. You never know what he will say or do. This is John Quale or, as America knows him, Prince Poppycock.
He is a crossover operatic tenor on America’s Got Talent but he is quite unlike any Pavarotti, Domingo, or Carreras. Quale had his first professional performance at age eleven and grew musically through the Interlochen Arts Camp. According to Quale’s official website, the Prince of Poppycock (the word “poppycock,” by the way, means nonsense) has been in existence since 2006.
John Quale does have a MySpace account where you can see non-Poppycock images of him and hear non-Poppycock music he has written and performed. His music on MySpace is billed as “Progressive/Electronica/Alternative.” His albums are titled “WorldvieW” and “WorldvieW 2.” If the songs “Miles to Go Before I Sleep” and “WorldvieW” are any indication of this young man’s talent, he will not be confined to two albums. You have not seen or heard this side of the Quale/Poppycock enigma on America’s Got Talent.
Prince Poppycock’s performance is a highly visual one, not easily translated to non-visual media like CDs or radio. John Quale’s performance translates well.
Two sides of the same coin, Quale/Poppycock shows himself to be a very versatile artist. I wonder how many Prince Poppycock look-alikes will be trick-or-treating this Halloween.
Nessun Dorma from Turandot
WorldvieW by John Quale
Remember back in the 70s when you injected mood into the atmosphere of your party by turning on the black lights and dancing to disco? Fighting Gravity has devised an act which relies on the illusion created by black lights and people dressed in white and black clothing. But this is no disco scene.
Fighting Gravity is composed of thirteen students from Virginia Technical Institute. Eight are juniors and five are seniors. Five of the performers are business majors, six are engineering majors (two are into aerospace engineering), one is a building construction major, and the last is majoring in human nutrition, foods and exercise.
What is so exciting to watch when this group of fraternity brothers takes the stage is the choreography of their movements. Despite the claims they have made that none of the group are professional dancers, their movements are precise.
Their performances seem to have themes: a puppeteer manipulating three puppets, an astronaut (Neil Armstrong?) landing on the moon, and skateboarding stunts in the park. Each appearance of Fighting Gravity finds them exploring new ways to enhance their act: the addition of color stripes, light beams, colored smoke, and props like benches and skateboards.
The music selection is upbeat and fits the choreography they have chosen for it.
I could easily enjoy a half hour to three quarter hour performance by Fighting Gravity. Maybe their act will make black lights, black light posters, and disco popular again. Who knows?
Anchorsplash Talent Show 2009
With his trademark fedora, his soulful voice, and guitar in hand, Michael Grimm has defined every song he has sung. He etches them with his own life experiences and you sense you have caught a glimpse of his heart. His musical genre is classified as Southern soul.
Part of his musical training was received from none other than Bill Medley of the 50s group The Righteous Brothers. Michael Grimm performed with Medley and his band at the Starlite Theatre in Branson, Missouri, until June 2010. The other part of his musical training came from listening to his grandmother play the piano. She was the person who introduced him at age twelve to the idea of playing for audiences.
He has done quite a bit of adapting from the smaller coffee shop and bar venues he has entertained in to the national television audience he hopes to wow. When the judges suggested he engage the audience more, Michael Grimm appeared on stage with the kicking, sexy number “Keep Your Hat On.” He listens and adapts but never loses his soul.
His on stage manner has been one of quiet and respect. He seems genuinely grateful each time he has moved one step closer to the pinnacle of America’s Got Talent. In some ways, he seems the antithesis of Prince Poppycock.
Michael Grimm has at least four CDs he has made, some with his own compositions and one which is live. He has a strong fan base which, of course, includes his beloved grandmother in Mississippi.
Duet with McKenna Medley in Branson
Michael Grimm’s I Am
Final Four Official Websites:
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/2010/09/09/2010-09-09_americas_got_talent_final_4_includes_jackie_evancho_piers_morgan_praises_10yearo.html?r=entertainment&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nydnrss%2Fentertainment+%28Entertainment%29 Final Four Announcement
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_699291.html “Jackie Evancho Week” Declared