BWW Interviews: Keith Lockhart Talks Boston Pops 2011 Season
The Boston Pops really know how to open a new season at Symphony Hall. There's a wonderful cocktail party before the concert with delicious hors d'oeuvre and drinks. Then the actual concert hall is awash with attractive pastel lighting and projections of butterflies all about the auditorium. It's definitely springtime in Boston and once Maestro Keith Lockhart steps up to the podium, the music begins as America's most beloved orchestra plays and delights the sell-out crowd.
Starting with Boyer's delightful "Silver Fanfare" and continuing with works by Herold, Rimsky-Korsakov and Gershwin, the audience relished every moment of the concert and joined in during the SOUND OF MUSIC sing-along that closed the first part of the program. The second half was devoted mostly to Broadway's Linda Eder, who wowed the crowd with her Judy Garland tribute and impressed everyone with her powerful and supple vocalizing. It was a remarkable evening.
In a phone conversation two days prior to the event, Lockhart sounded slightly fatigued. He'd just returned to Boston from Abu Dhabi from where he conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra, for which he's been appointed Chief Conductor. It was a concert that featured Broadway's Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley who performed songs from KISS ME KATE, FOLLIES, SOUTH PACIFIC and other Broadway classics, while the orchestra excited the place with what is frequently referred to as "The Symphonic Dances" from WEST SIDE STORY. It was a well-received performance but such travels keep Lockhart on-the-go. "It's hard to hit a moving target," he quipped.
Looking ahead to the 2011 Pops season, Lockhart becomes extremely excited despite his jet lag: "I think it's a very strong season this year. It's a lot of the things that we normally do but there's a wonderful, wide variety of genres and they cross every American musical boundary that you can think of. We go from bluegrass to R&B to Broadway to Gospel. Everything seems to fall in there and we'll have many great artists performing with us. We'll also have a lot of the Boston Pops Orchestra featured in the concerts this year to show them off a bit."
Speaking of Linda Eder, the maestro's admiration for her becomes very evident. "She's been with us a good deal over the years. She'll be doing a tribute to Judy Garland, who was one of the great voices of our time and age. Quite frankly, she was one of the great voices of all time." Eder is also an audience favorite because the Opening Night crowd cheered her first appearance on the stage and was enthusiastic in their applause after every one of her numbers. One person in the crowd was heard to say,"This woman must have six foot lungs!" Allowing for hyperbole, that was an apt description of Eder's vocal skills.
"We're also emphasizing the fact that the Pops is and always has been an interactive experience where everybody gets to make music," continued the conductor. "We'll be having sing-alongs in many of our concerts throughout the season. We're kind of getting everyone actively involved in performing with the Pops." It seems to be effective because at the SOUND OF MUSIC segment on Opening Night, several people showed up dressed as their favorite characters. There were girls in dirndl skirts, boys in lederhosen, several nuns (of varying religious orders), a Captain Von Trapp in a smoking jacket, and a would-be Maria--who toted a guitar case with her. The sing-along prompted a great response from the crowd, many of whom were still singing snippets from the Rodgers and Hammerstein score during intermission.
One of the most novel segments of the May 11th concert was the video montage of "Over The Rainbow" that was shown above the orchestra as Lockhart led a sweeping rendition of the Harold Arlen tune. Months prior to the event, a message went out over Facebook and other social networking sites for people of various talents--and equally varying musical skills-- to submit videos of themselves singing this beloved tune. "There are certain songs that have crossed all boundaries and everyone knows. We asked Pops fans to give us their best few bars of 'Over the Rainbow' and the video is a pastiche of these different renditions and takes on a classic tune." As edited by Supan Deb, the end result was remarkable; featuring people from various places across the nation singing their own versions of the song-there was even a girl dressed as Dorothy sitting in what appeared to be a wheat field warbling to good advantage.
Broadway favorite Michael Feinstein will be performing with the Boston Pops this season. "The interesting thing about Michael is that I just saw him last month. We did a concert in London together. He and I are spending a lot of time together this year" chuckles Lockhart. "He's doing a Sinatra Tribute with us and as you know, Frank Sinatra is the master of the American Songbook." Michael Feinstein performs with the Pops on May 31st and June 1st.
The Boston Pops will be welcoming the New York Pops' Steven Reineke as guest conductor. "Steve has been here before," Lockhart remarks. "It's no more crossing the line with the New York Pops than when Erich Kunzel from the Cincinnati Pops would join us. Each guest conductor brings his own repertoire and an interesting take on things." Reineke's concerts with the Boston Pops will take place on June 16th and 17th and will feature guest soloist Julia Murney who will sing "Back to Before" from RAGTIME, "Don't Rain on My Parade" from FUNNY GIRL and "Defying Gravity" from WICKED among other selections.
This season also features what is billed as a "Family Concert" "It's a shorter, more compact sort of concert. We're trying to plan it as a concert that will appeal to adults but will also be an interesting first-experience to bring the kids to We'll be joined by the jazz trumpet player Brian Stripling who is, in himself, a walking educational concert because he has spent much of his career performing and talking about the music of some really big pioneering Black jazz musicians including Louie Armstrong , who he does an amazing tribute to," explains the conductor. "I think that's something great to expose the kids coming in to. We're also joined by the Varsity Girls who have a large fan base on Nickelodeon. Additionally, we're featuring a young artist who won the Boston Symphony's Concerto Competitions and it's always great for youngsters to see kids accomplishing a high level of artistry themselves. It'll be a very special sort of event." This Family Concert was scheduled for Saturday, May 14th.
The month of August will be taken up on the Pops schedule with their first-ever Minor League Baseball Tour. The famed orchestra will visit ten Minor League Ballparks, a tour stretching from Birmingham, Alabama, to Buffalo, New York, August 16-30. Iconic singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins will join Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra for a program that features music inspired by three of this country's favorite pastimes--baseball, movies, and rock 'n' roll. "I think it's a great way to get families interested in the Boston Pops," said the maestro. "Hopefully we'll be getting whole families who wouldn't normally be coming to see us if we performed at their local concert hall. However, the combination of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and the Boston Pops might appeal to them." The program will be a tribute to America's Favorite Past Times and includes music from Hollywood, the music of the Boston Pops, rock and roll and the music of baseball. Sounds like a winning combination regardless of the box scores.
Of course, the Pops will be playing their famous Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular at Boston's Esplanade on July 3rd and 4th, portions of which will be telecast on the CBS Television Network.
There will also be Boston Pops appearances at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, MA this summer. This outdoor venue will host "America's Favorite Orchestra" in their incredibly popular Movie Night, where John Williams is on the podium. Lockhart will lead the orchestra there when Broadway's Jason Danieley and Kelli O'Hara are in the spotlight singing some memorable music written by Cole Porter on July 17th.
Whether the Boston Pops is enjoyed at a ball park, an outdoor venue like Tanglewood or in the elegance of Boston's Symphony Hall, audiences are guaranteed a memorable time. Under the skilled and sensitive baton of Keith Lockhart, the orchestra is in prime form. However, it seems that musicians aren't the only ones who respond so favorably to Maestro Lockhart. The Opening Night crowd at Symphony Hall was just as enthusiastic about the conductor as they were about the music he was so admirably conducting. Nothing could be more felicitous.
To purchase tickets to Boston Pops concerts or to get further information about the orchestra, go to www.bso.org.