Anticipation hung in the air last Saturday night at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Ronald Perelman Stage. The audience had come together for a special evening of spoken word poetry and classical music presented by Dorn Music. World-renowned classical musician Jan Vogler and superstar contemporary poet Amanda Gorman had joined forces to offer, as the program for the performance described, “hope and humanity being expressed through two different genres.”

The Los Angeles-born and -raised Gorman is most known for being the youngest-ever inaugural poet in U.S. history, having performed at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The East Berlin-born Vogler was a child prodigy and is an award-winning musician and composer who also shattered records as the youngest player in the history of the Staatskapelle Dresden orchestra.

Decked out in a bright-yellow coat and red headband as hopeful and passionate as her poetry, Gorman apparently made an impression on Vogler with her performance at the 2020 inauguration. In an interview with National Public Radio, Vogler explained, “What I admire about Amanda is her optimism that is really visionary, and we need that, I think, in our time.”

Since Vogler is based in New York and Gorman in L.A., they rehearsed via Zoom for a few months and in person in the days leading up to the performance.

He explained in an interview with ABC Channel 7 News that after seeing her, he reached out and suggested the collaboration. It isn’t the first time Vogler has done something artistically bold and unconventional; he previously performed with actor Bill Murray (“Ghostbusters”), combining his music with Murray’s recitation of works from the Western literary canon.

In addition to pushing the envelope artistically, the evening was about Carnegie Hall’s efforts to seed new audiences for its storied venue, which opened in 1891.

Carnegie Hall has hosted many luminaries, including opera singers Roland Hayes, Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, and Marian Anderson. Soprano Sissieretta Jones performed at Carnegie in 1893. Jazz legends Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington also performed there. More recently, Jon Batiste and Angelique Kidjo have headlined Carnegie events and jazz musician Jason Moran is scheduled to perform in March.

Carnegie Hall also has a long history of featuring non-musicians, including activists Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even poet Gil Scott-Heron has performed there several times.

The two were seated next to each other, Vogler on a slight platform, and took turns performing for most of the evening, interrupted by an intermission. Gorman wore a soft-pink chemise-style gown with silver glitter accents by Prada with her hair braided by Larae Burress and styled into a sophisticated updo by Aggie Ashi.

Gorman recited “An Ode We Owe” right after Vogler’s stirring interpretation of the “Prelude for Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major,” a piece probably familiar even to those who don’t normally listen to classical music. Part of what made the evening so special is that Bach’s music is so ubiquitous, much of it familiar to the general public.

With the help of the venue’s legendary acoustics, the 25-year-old Harvard graduate’s penetrating yet mellifluous words rang out, often falling into punctuated rhythm. Gorman’s poetry used, among other things, scripture, pop culture references, and civil rights rhetoric. Graceful and expressive movements of her arms and hands gave her words further life, providing warning and encouragement, and urging unity.

Vogler’s next performance was “Bach’s Suite No. 5,” and he and Gorman bantered after the prelude, with him describing it as a fugue after she asked him to go into some detail about the solemn, dramatic movement. It’s likely no coincidence that Gorman’s next poem was titled “Fugue,” which she said she was inspired to write by a desire to retain a collective memory of the pandemic experience.

Later in the evening, Gorman, who wrote the children’s book “Change Sings” and poetry collections “The Hill We Climb” and “Call Us What We Carry,” exhorted the audience to interact and “give energy” via finger snaps, and respond to her words. The packed audience, a representation of a wide swath of ages and ethnicities, was all too happy to oblige.

As if the evening wasn’t already exciting enough, Gorman informed the audience she was spontaneously adding another poem, “The Truth in One Nation,” to the program, which she performed with verve to an audience pleased with the unexpected addition.

With the tiniest hint of defiance, Gorman elicited raucous applause when she prefaced her one of her last readings by warning the audience she was going to recite from “my most banned book.”  “The Hill We Climb” is one of many books by people from historically marginalized groups that have been banned in various schools around the country in the last few years.

The evening ended with Vogler’s rousing rendering of “Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major” and Gorman’s “What We Carry.” Bowing to audience insistence, the pair reappeared for an encore after what was supposed to have been the finale. They then performed in unison rather than separately, with Gorman delivering her “What We Carry” while Vogler played the “Prelude from Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello,” and concluding the evening in climactic and dramatic fashion.