Icons of the 1970s R&B and soul sound, the O’Jays, join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for a summer concert that’s sure to sizzle on Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Hall.
The soundtrack of multiple generations, the O’Jays — with founding members Walter Williams and Eddie Levert — will perform their legendary hits with an orchestral twist provided by Assistant Conductor Andrés Franco and the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Throughout their career, the O’Jays have achieved 10 gold albums, nine platinum albums and 10 #1 hits. The audience will shake their groove things to songs from these Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees such as “Love Train,” “Put Your Hands Together,” “I Love Music” and many more.
Tickets, ranging from $39 to $119, are available at the Heinz Hall Box Office, via phone at 412-392-4900 or online at pittsburghsymphony.org/summer.
About the Artists
Having completed highly successful first seasons as music director of Tulsa’s Signature Symphony at TCC, as well as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, ANDRÉS FRANCO has established himself as a conductor to watch.
While maintaining his roles as principal conductor of the multimedia project Caminos del Inka, and artistic director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s summer festival “Concerts in the Garden,” he continues to delight audiences with his imaginative programming and energetic style.
During the 2016-2017 season, Franco will make debuts with the Boise Philharmonic, Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Texas Music Festival, and will return to conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
A frequent guest conductor in the United States, Europe and South America, Franco has appeared with the Columbus, Elgin, El Paso, Eugene, Fort Worth, Houston, Lake Forest, Mississippi, Saginaw Bay, Springfield, St. Louis and Stockton symphony orchestras; the Chicago Sinfonietta; Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León/Spain; the National Symphony Orchestra of Peru, as well as with the National Symphony, Bogota Philharmonic, Medellin Philharmonic and EAFIT Symphony Orchestra in Colombia. Festival appearances include the Cabrillo, Grant Park, OK Mozart and Oregon Bach Festivals.
Franco formerly served as music director of the Philharmonia of Kansas City, as associate and resident conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony, and as Leonard Slatkin’s assistant conductor during the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
A native of Colombia, Franco is dedicated to preserving and performing the music of the Americas. As principal conductor of Caminos del Inka, he has led many performances of works by Latin American composers, such as Jimmy López, Diego Luzuriaga and the famous Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla.
Born into a musical family, Franco began piano studies with his father, Jorge Franco. An accomplished pianist, he studied with Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Jose Feghali, and attended piano workshops with Rudolph Buchbinder in Switzerland, and Lev Naumov in France. He studied conducting with Marin Alsop, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Kurt Masur, Gustav Meier, Helmut Rilling, Gerard Schwarz and Leonard Slatkin.
Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as master of music degrees in piano performance and conducting from Texas Christian University.
Franco is married to Victoria Luperi, associate principal clarinetist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
THE O’JAYS are touring history, a connection to an era and a sound that formed the soundtrack for the lives of several generations. The O’Jays are still hitting the road with the same electrifying energy they’ve had for more than 50 years.
Walter Williams and Eddie Levert first met when they were the ages of six and seven respectively. As teenagers in Canton, Ohio, they formed a band originally consisting of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. In 1963, the band took the name The O’Jays in tribute to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O’Jay. Several members have changed, but the core, original lead singers Eddie Levert and Walter Williams, continue to front the group.
In 1972, Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters with whom the O’Jays had been working for several years, signed the group to their Philadelphia International label. With this magic formula, often called The Sound of Philadelphia, The O’Jays scored the first number 1 and million-seller, “Backstabbers.” Subsequently, they succeeded with various chart-topping pop and R&B singles including “Love Train,” “Put Your Hands Together,” “For the Love of Money,” “I Love Music,” “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love),” “Livin’ for the Weekend” and “Use Ta Be My Girl.” This success propelled The O’Jays to be the first black vocal group to perform in arenas throughout America during the ’70s and ’80s.
Levert and Williams have a rare lifelong bond that few of us will ever experience; friends and partners for almost 65 years.
“We still appreciate our friendship, dedication to each other and the group and our love for good music.” Walter continues, “We probably could have had great solo careers, but I don’t think either one of us could have ever have been as big as The O’Jays.”
Williams has battled multiple sclerosis for 30 years and continues to execute his dance moves with perfection when performing onstage with the group. Williams is also a volunteer national ambassador for the MS Society and a spokesperson for MS Active Source. Levert is known for his raspy voice and has a range that takes him from alto to second tenor. Levert teamed up with his son, Gerald, for a duet on “Baby Hold on to Me,” which hit number one on the R&B charts. Levert has also mentored his very successful sons, Gerald and Sean, who became major forces in the music industry.
The O’Jays were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005 and honored with BET’s Life Time Achievement Award in 2009. In 2013, they were inducted into The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame. Today, the songs of The O’Jays are still being used in many movies, commercials and TV shows. “For the Love of Money” continues to be the theme song for “The Apprentice.”
Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant, who joined the group in 1995, continue to thrill fans today. Throughout their career The O’Jays have achieved 10 gold albums, nine platinum albums and 10 #1 hits. It’s been a long journey but thanks to the fans the LOVE TRAIN is still going strong!
The PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, known for its artistic excellence for more than 120 years, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. Past music directors have included Fritz Reiner (1938-1948), William Steinberg (1952-1976), André Previn (1976-1984), Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) and Mariss Jansons (1995-2004). This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The orchestra has been at the forefront of championing new American works, and gave the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” in 1944 and John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine in 1986. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. Its “Pittsburgh Live!” series with Reference Recordings has resulted in back-to-back Grammy Award nominations in 2015 and 2016. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony broadcast on the airwaves coast-to-coast and in the late 1970s it made the ground breaking PBS series “Previn and the Pittsburgh.” The orchestra has received increased national attention since 1982 through network radio broadcasts on Public Radio International, produced by Classical WQED-FM 89.3, made possible by the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. With a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900 — including international tours to Europe, the Far East and South America—the Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
HEINZ HALL FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is owned and operated by Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc., a non-profit organization, and is the year-round home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, Heinz Hall hosts many events that do not feature its world-renowned Orchestra including Broadway shows, popular touring artists, comedians, speakers and much more. For a full calendar of upcoming non-symphony events at the hall, visit heinzhall.org.
Editors Please Note:
Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m.
THE O’JAYS WITH THE PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
ANDRÉS FRANCO, conductor
THE O’JAYS, vocalists