Kristin Chenoweth, performing at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic, talked to a couple of audience members, asking them if they knew the song "For Good". She chose a female, who had mentioned that she was a "voice teacher" and did know the song. The woman, Sarah Horn, was then escorted to the stage by one of Chenoweth's backup singers, handed a microphone, and sent on stage.
YouTube links after the fold.
This first version was recorded on his iPhone by Sarah's friend, who had been sitting with her when she was chosen. This one shows Sarah walking across the stage, and you get Chenoweth's banter before she starts the song. Because of the angle to the big screen however, this one doesn't have the best video. The audio is good though. The post song events are edited. (This version, posted yesterday, is, at diary post time, over 500,000 views...)
This version is from a different angle, and stays on the big screen, so the video is way better. The audio is crispier, but good. The first part of the first verse is chopped off, though, so you also don't get the introduction. It has all of the events from the end of the song, to when Chenoweth shifts gear to set up the next tune, so with this video, you get the rest of the story, to the end.
Please take the time now to watch at least one of the videos, and if you enjoyed the performance, proceed to the rest of the diary.
Needless to say, Sarah Horn is about to go from "vocal teacher" to "famous" in 48 hours or less. It will be interesting to see how that turns out. I hope, professionally, that she gets the career that she wants, at whatever level that might be.
Obviously, the audience had their asses kicked. Chenoweth behaved like she was expecting someone she'd have to coach and hand-hold through the tune (like this is a schtick that she's done in other concerts, using comedy to work her way through a near train wreck with a fan). And then Sarah started singing. Note the orchestra conductor's reaction (he's standing right behind Ms. Horn).
So the talk, at both the concert, and online once this video went viral was all about, "Was Sarah a ringer?", a plant, like magicians use?
Apparently, the LA Times called backstage before the show was even over to ask just that question.
This is Sarah Horn's version of the events, and her reaction, posted to facebook, reprinted here.
A couple of excerpts:
I heard the roar of the crowd during that first line but then it all faded away. I think I've seen it done cinematically before but I never imagined my perception of a performance would appear like this. The 10,000+ people of the Bowl faded away. There was no one else there. No noise. No people. I could heard the beautiful music of the orchestra but there was no one onstage, just Kristin and I.
After the concert, I was swarmed with people who wanted my business card, wanted to take pictures with me, wanted to know if I was an audience plant because it was just too perfect. People came up to me telling me I'd given them goosebumps, made them cry.Just in case you might be tempted to think that Ms. Horn is just some karaoke singer/part-time music instructor who happens to be pretty good, here's one song from her graduate recital, "The girl in 14G". She's a badass. An extremely practiced, well trained, versatile badass.
Paul Geller, Production Director at both the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall pulled me aside afterward. He said that the production staff is very picky about the quality of performers that they allow on their stage and that what was produced in that song was better than anything they could have planned. He took down my contact information because at some point during the last three songs, he got a phone call from the LA Times wanting to know if I was an audience plant and asked my permission to pass on my contact information for them to speak to me directly, if needed.
Because of that, in comments on other sites, most musicians believe that she just walked up there and knocked this out. She's a veteran, used to working with students and adjusting herself to what they're doing, also used to singing very difficult pieces in high pressure performing circumstances. For her, "For Good" is trivial, in terms of technical difficulty.
Up to now, Sarah Horn has been a big fish in a small pond. One way or another, for better or worse, Kristin Chenoweth just tossed her into the Pacific.
8:57 PM PT: From Villanova Rhodes in the comments: