GR Symphony’s Picnic Pops Hosts Boyz II Men, Bowie Tribute

Bursting with star power, the Grand Rapids Symphony kicks off its 2016 Picnic Pops series with another explosive Classical Fireworks show on July 14.

The season, which runs mid-July through early August, also includes performances showcasing the music of legendary rock musicians Queen, The Beach Boys and David Bowie. Then, R&B superstars Boyz II Men join the symphony live onstage Aug. 4 for a one-night-only event to cap off the series. 

“We pick well-known and much-loved classical blockbusters for our annual Classical Fireworks concerts, plus a few new or less familiar pieces that fit in the same vein and show off the Grand Rapids Symphony,” said Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, public relations manager for the Grand Rapids Symphony. “Naturally, when we have special guests such as Boyz II Men, the show is all about the music by the artist that the audience loves. That works especially well with a full-size symphony orchestra.”

D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops/Grand Rapids Symphony’s Classical Fireworks

Cannonsburg Ski Area
6800 Cannonsburg Rd., Belmont, (616) 454-9451

The Grand Rapids Symphony began the Picnic Pops in 1995. Since then, thousands have flocked to the hills of Cannonsburg Ski Area every year. The relaxed, outdoor setting and familiar pop/rock tunes have helped open the doors for many to experience the symphony for the very first time.

“You get to wear comfortable clothes and spread out on a blanket or bring a favorite chair,” Kaczmarczyk said. “Kids can scamper and play on the hills of Cannonsburg Ski Area. You can enjoy conversation with friends before the show or during intermission, and you can nibble or have a drink while enjoying the music.”

In addition to the Classical Fireworks show, which runs July 14-15, the symphony also performs “We Will Rock You! The Music of Queen” July 21-22 and “The Music of The Beach Boys” July 28-29. During both performances, rock musicians perform live onstage alongside the symphony.

On Aug. 2, the symphony performs a special one-night tribute to the late David Bowie. The brand-new show debuted in Atlanta earlier this summer. It features a full rock band performing with the symphony and covers songs from the rock icon’s entire catalog in a moving symphonic odyssey. 

“David Bowie passed away in January while the 2016 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops still was in the planning,” Kaczmarczyk said. “We felt it was the right thing to do to remember the life and work of an innovative artist who played a major role in rock music of the past four to five decades.” 

As for the Aug. 4 season closer with Boyz II Men, the special performance showcases several of the group’s many chart-topping hits, including “I’ll Make Love To You,” “Motown Philly,” “On Bended Knee” and, of course, “End of the Road.” 

The multiplatinum R&B group first rose to worldwide popularity and acclaim in the early ’90s with a string of No. 1 hit singles. The group’s second LP, II, was the first-ever winner of the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 1995. The group released their latest LP, Collide, in 2014. 

“Groups typically write their own music, learn it as they go, and spend weeks, even months, before recording or performing live,” Kaczmarczyk said of the symphony’s anticipation for working with Boyz II Men. “An orchestra such as the Grand Rapids Symphony has little time to learn new music and even less to rehearse with the guest artist. But it’s what we do.” 

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