When it comes to capturing your heart, the Oregon Symphony means business, and if Chopin or Mozart won’t do the trick, maybe Boyz II Men will. On Tuesday, April 7 the legendary nineties sultans of soul will join the Symphony to woo you with classics of R&B easy listening like “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” Even from a Symphony that takes annual forays into video game music and courts prog-Indian-music gods like Zakir Hussain, this marriage of classical and croon is downright unexpected.
So how did we get here? Well, I’m glad you asked, girl, for tonight is your night. Pour the wine, light the fire, and take a look at the road to this special moment in history.
1992: r&B and rachmaninoff
Boyz II Men, a four-piece from Philadelphia specializing in Motown classics, enjoy their big break when they are asked to join MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit tour. Later that year they win a Grammy for Best R&B Performance on their album Cooeyhighharmony, and sing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” on the grand finale of the Cosby Show, altering the lyrics to note that “Thursday nights won’t be the same.” Whew!
The Oregon Symphony plays Rachmaninoff.
1997: EVOLUTION AND AIRTIME
Boyz II Men’s third full-length album, Evolution, debuts at number 1, propelled by single “4 Seasons of Loneliness.”
The Oregon Symphony is featured on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour, PBS’s documentary-style answer to NBC, CBS, and NBC’s run-of-the-mill news programming.
2003: CHECKING OUT AND CZECHS
Michael McCary becomes the first member of Boyz II Men to leave the group. Officially his departure is due to health problems, but rumors abound that personal differences played a role. The band continues as a three-piece.
The Oregon Symphony receives its first Grammy nomination, for a recording of “Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra,” a work by local hero Tomas Svoboda, the great Czech composer now living in Southeast Portland.
2010: STEAMSHIPS AND STRINGS
Boyz II Men perform at Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, then celebrate the new year by hopping on to a Boyz II Men-themed “love cruise,” in honor of their 20th anniversary.
Yo Yo Ma, the much-loved Harvard- and Juilliard-educated cellist who began performing publicly at the age of five, joins the Oregon Symphony to play Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. The performance sells out the Schnitz and brings down the house.
2013: PAY CUTS AND the PACKAGE
Boyz II Men–now with an estimated net worth of $1.6 million–announce live on daytime talkshow The View that they will tour in the summer with New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees. This venture is named The Package Tour, which provides ample opportunity for uncomfortable double entendres during the press junket.
Musicians in the Oregon Symphony give up $315,000 in pay in order to keep the organization afloat. "I am supportive of the desire to live within our means," Jeffrey Work, principal trumpet, tells The Oregonian.
All of which lead us to . . .
2015: SYMPHONY MEETS SOUL
Boyz II Men and the Oregon Symphony come together at last. So who’ll be there to witness? According to the Oregon Symphony's Jim Fullan, mostly Boyz II Men fans. However, he figures a significant minority will be those who are simply intrigued by the pairing and "want to hear what this is all about."
What brought about this unlikely pairing? "There is a ton of incredible music in our world," Fullan says, "and we like playing lots of it; we have a great orchestra that plays the heck out of it, and we have an audience who really loves it."
Guess it was meant to be.
Boyz II Men and the Oregon Symphony will play at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on April 7.