Arts & CultureMusic

Harmony of singing brings this couple together

Courtesy of Dan Payson-Lewsi

Singing Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat’s hit “Lucky,” Evynne and Peter Hollens have chosen a fitting song to open their show, with lyrics that tell the Hollens’ story of finding love through music and returning to Eugene after traveling the high seas for months together.

As one of the lyrics goes, “I’m lucky I’m in love with my best friend, lucky to have been where I have been, lucky to be coming home again.”

The Oregon grads will grace the John G. Shedd Institute’s stage tonight at 7:30 p.m. for Goodnight Rhapsody, an assortment of jazz, pop hits, classical songs and musical theater that the Hollens’ have mastered while touring the globe as entertainers for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

“It’s a relaxed evening of music,” Evynne said. “It’s funny because it’s tax day. So, finish
your taxes, get all that stress out and then just come down and enjoy an evening of music.”

The Hollens’ history with music and the a cappella groups on campus is long and intricate. Peter came to the University in the fall of 1998 from Ashland and was astonished there wasn’t a collegiate a cappella group at the University. He founded the all-male a cappella group On the Rocks, and when Evynne came to the University in 2001, she followed suit.

She co-founded the all-female a cappella group Divisi.

A rather telling beginning to the rest of their lives, the two met at the EMU Amphitheater during one of On the Rocks’ usual Friday afternoon performances and got to know each other better through the musical “Crazy For You,” the first Oregon Festival of American Music musical at the Shedd.

After graduating in 2005, Evynne worked as a development assistant at the Shedd, while Peter taught himself audio engineering and began his own production company. Then, one random day, as Evynne recalls, Royal Caribbean held auditions for entertainers at the Shedd.

“At my lunch hour I went down and just took a number. And then, it just happened,” she said.

Evynne spent the next eight months on a cruise line between Los Angeles and Mexico while Peter continued with his production company, visiting the ship occasionally on weekends. When Evynne returned to Eugene, Peter became part of the cast for Royal Caribbean as well. Evynne and Peter married in August 2007, and four months after their wedding, they took off for eight months of entertaining on a cruise ship in the Bahamas.

“It was like an extended honeymoon,” Peter said, chuckling.

“The first year of marriage on a cruise ship — well, first, second and almost third — it’s a good test. We’ve spent most of our married life on ships,” Evynne said.

They have been performing on cruise ships ever since, enjoying the sea breeze from Alaska to Australia. Performing in three different song and dance revues, Peter and Evynne are used to “all-out sets and costumes.” But during their ample downtime on the ship, they developed their own smaller show that features a wide variety of music they love.

“There’s music for everybody. We have songs that were hot in 1930 up through to contemporary pop and musical theater. There’s a little bit of classical music, too, with Peter’s classical chops,” Evynne said.

The two returned from an eight-month gig in Australia and New Zealand in February and will be returning for a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea in June. Until then, however, they are enjoying being home in Eugene and returning to their roots. Peter has produced all of Divisi’s award-winning CDs and the three most recent CDs for On the Rocks.

“We love them. We’re still really involved with them … It’s really fun,” he said.

The couple returns to their home at the Shedd to give landlocked Eugene residents a taste of their music from the high seas. Their evening performance will include the show they developed, as well as a few songs from each of the three revues. They will perform everything from the popular jazz tune “Cry Me a River” to “The Prayer” to a unique duet of
Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” which is one of Evynne’s favorites to sing. As for Peter, he doesn’t have a favorite.

“I just enjoy singing with you,” he said, looking at Evynne, “I don’t have a specific song I prefer.”

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