En Vogue proved they were “Born To Sing” last month when the trio graced the Heinz Hall Stage to perform along with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as part of the 9th annual Community Partners Concert.
“We were so excited and thankful when we were asked to perform for this concert with your awesome Symphony Orchestra” said En Vogue member Terry Ellis.
The Community Partners Program is a yearly collaboration with Pittsburgh area non-profit organizations as a way to fundraise and cultivate partnerships between the symphony and these groups.
Up to 25 non-profit organizations in Pittsburgh sign up as “partners” in the program and are required to sell a minimum of 50 tickets. Concertgoers allocate the cost of their ticket to benefit the non-profit group of their choice. All ticket revenue from the Community Partners Concert is distributed to the appropriate non-profit group after the concert.
In turn, the PSO donates the orchestra services, and secures corporate sponsors to underwrite out-of-pocket costs associated with the concert headliner.
The initiative started in 2004 with guest artist Roberta Flack and has included such memorable artists as Issac Hayes, Chaka Khan, the Temptations and Boyz II Men.
“Thank you to the community partners! This is an awesome event,” said En Vogue member Cindy Herron-Braggs.
Although they have been away from the spotlight since the release of their last album, 2000’s “Masterpiece Theater,” the trio’s voices and stage presence has not diminished one bit.
During their 37-minute set, audience members were taken on a trip down memory lane as the girls belted out hits “Love Don’t Love You,” “You’re Never Gonna Get It (My Lovin’),” “You Don’t Have to Worry,” “Lies,” “Whatta Man,” “Hold On” and “Riddle.”
One highlight of the night was Herron-Braggs and Ellis’ powerful rendition of Yanni’s 1990 hit “Aria,” a song based on the Flower Duet.
“We love the song and we got the chance to record it,” Ellis said.
The group is now touring worldwide as a trio, which consists of original members Ellis, Herron-Braggs and new member Rhona Bennett.
Original member Maxine Jones occasionally tours with the group, but was unable to make it to the Pittsburgh show.
En Vogue was the brainchild of music producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy who envisioned a recreation of 1950s girl groups like the Supremes. It started out as a quartet with Ellis, Herron-Braggs, Jones and Dawn Robinson.
Their debut album, “Born To Sing” spawned the hits “Hold On,” “Lies,” “You Don’t Have to Worry” and “Don’t Go.”
En Vogue’s success continued with the release of 1992’s “Funky Divas” which gave us the timeless hits “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” “Free Your Mind,” and “Give It Up, Turn it Loose”
“Funky Divas” went on to sell more than three million copies, won three MTV Music Awards and was nominated for five Grammy Awards.
Three years later, Ellis stepped away from the group but returned in to record “Don’t Let Go,” for the movie “Set It Off.” “Don’t Let Go” became the group’s biggest hit to date, peaking at number two on the Hot 100 chart. It was also the last En Vogue single to feature Dawn Robinson who left the group in 1997 citing difficult contractual negotiations.
The group stood strong in Robinson’s absence and recorded “EV3” as a trio thanks to the addition of new member, powerhouse vocalist Rhona Bennett (who is best known for her recurring role as Nicole on the “Jamie Foxx Show”). The album produced the hits “Whatever” and “Too Gone Too Long.”
In 2005 En Vogue released “Soul Flower” on independent label 33rd Street Records, but the album failed to chart.
Despite the shakeups EnVogue has encountered, the group has continued to persevere. The group will continue its worldwide tour and is looking into getting back into television and film projects.
“It’s about connecting with the people. It’s about the energy you receive, the love and the reciprocation from the message in the music,” Ellis said.
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