By Bob Allen
A Belmont University graduate and adjunct voice teacher at California Baptist University became an Internet sensation when a YouTube video of her singing onstage with Kristin Chenoweth at the Hollywood Bowl went viral.
More than 2.6 million people have viewed the Aug. 24 video of Sarah Horn’s unexpected and impromptu duet of “For Good” from the “Wizard of Oz”-inspired “Wicked” with Chenoweth, who played one of the original roles in the hit musical on Broadway.
Horn, 26, attended the first of two weekend Hollywood Bowl performances by Chenoweth, a singer and actress who won a Tony Award in 1999 for her performance in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” After some confusion about their tickets, Horn’s group ended up right in front of the stage.
Chenoweth, who often invites audience members to accompany her on stage, held a microphone up to a women in front of Horn and asked if she knew the song “For Good.” When the audience member said no, Horn stood up, waved her arms and shouted, “I know the song!”
After being invited on stage, Horn introduced herself as a voice teacher. Chenoweth sang the first two verses written for the character “Glinda,” reminding Horn “I start” and “still me” so she would know not to sing.
When Horn’s turn came to sing the part of Ephalba, Chenoweth’s jaw dropped in surprise. Applause grew until a crescendo — during which Chenoweth remarked “holy crap, harmony” — brought down the house.
Horn wrote a first-person account of the performance on the website BroadwayWorld.com.
“I heard the roar of the crowd during that first line but then it all faded away,” she recalled. “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-plus people of the Bowl faded away. There was no one else there. No noise. No people. I could hear the beautiful music of the orchestra but there was no one onstage, just Kristin and I. I reached my hand out as I sang the word ‘friend’ and she stepped forward and took it. There was such joy, elation, a spontaneous musical spark that we shared in that moment. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced.”
The quality of the performance prompted speculation that Horn was an audience plant. Horn described it to the Hollywood Reporter as “years of preparation for a moment of freedom.”
“I’ve been studying music for years, studying how to sing, but also I’m very prepared with the ‘Wicked’ music, because that is my favorite musical of all time,” she said. “I was obsessed in high school. I would sing the part of Glinda going through ‘For Good’ and then jump back to the beginning of the song and sang Elphaba. because I wanted to learn both.
“I rehearsed in the privacy of my own home but never with Kristin.”
Horn’s friend Mike Kestler recorded the whole thing on his iPhone and uploaded the video to YouTube.
Horn told the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., that the video had received about 5,000 views before she went to bed early Saturday night because she was getting up for church the next morning. When she woke up it was up to 80,000 views, and a portion of the clip was played on the video screen at her church that morning.
She said she first realized the audience was growing beyond YouTube when she started getting phone calls Sunday afternoon from people she didn’t know. On Monday, “Inside Edition” sent a car to her house to pick up her up for an interview.
Horn, who describes herself as an introvert when not performing on stage, lived her whole life in Riverside until she moved to Nashville, Tenn., to earn a degree in commercial music at Belmont University. After graduation she returned to Riverside, enrolling at California Baptist University. She graduated in May 2012 with a master’s degrees in vocal performance and conducting.
She was hired as an adjunct voice teacher at Cal Baptist in the fall of 2012. She currently has 24 students and is conductor of the Chamber Singers, a vocal group of 15-25 members that performs in churches and other venues.
“Remind me never to pick someone who sings better than I do,” Chenoweth remarked after Horn left the stage. “Seriously, people. This voice is teaching our young people.”