BWW Interviews: Boston Pops and Keith Lockhart Bring Christmas Cheer
"Holiday Pops": A Conversation with Keith Lockhart
This time of the year can be extremely challenging for those who appreciate good music. Not only are radio stations blaring what they call "holiday favorites" but that same kind of music is heard in waiting rooms, delis and certain restaurants. Repeated hearings of songs about grandmothers getting run over by reindeer and dying women who can't get into heaven because they don't have proper shoes, grow more irritating with every hearing. Really, who is it who decides what a "holiday favorite" is?
There is an excellent alternative to this proliferation of this musical madness and it comes in the form of the newest CD by the world famous Boston Pops under the baton of Keith Lockhart.. It's a recording that captures the true Christmas spirit with selections of both secular and religious nature. Included is an ingenious arrangement of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which was arranged by David Chase and orchestrated by Don Sebesky. It incorporates a mélange of musical quotations throughout the piece: works that range from Offenbach's "Gaite Parissiene" to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" It all works marvelously well to comic effect. When performed in Pops' concerts, it stops the show solidly. One radio show on Long Island is playing the selection regularly and running a contest challenging the listeners to name all the musical quotations in it. So far no one has named them all.
"What a great idea!" remarked Maestro Lockhart when apprised by phone of the contest. "That's great! Let me know who wins!"
The CD, titled A Boston Pops Christmas, live from Symphony Hall includes excellent renditions of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", "The Christmas Song", "Sleigh Ride" , "The Prologue from Hodie (This Day)", a musical setting of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and a spirited sing-along, among other delights. Some of the most impressive moments on the recording are three Christmas Spirituals and a robust performance of "Children Go I Will Send Thee"-all contributed by Melinda Doolittle.
"Melinda first came to the public's attention as a finalist on AMERICAN IDOL," explains Lockhart. "We got to meet her when she was involved in our Gospel program at the Pops a few years ago. We really liked her both personally and for her voice and what she did with it. We thought she'd be a great addition to the project. She's actually sung that repertoire on tour with the Pops. It's always great to just change texture on the album and have a solo voice in there for a while. I mean there's so much orchestra and chorus that it's good to mix it up a little bit and that's what she provides."
Another musical soloist featured on the recording is bass Reid Bruton. "He's featured in our immortal version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas," Lockhart comments. "He sings the Boris Karloff role and performs 'You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch' Bruton has opera credits that include Billy Budd, Salome, and La Boheme. He's also sung back-up for Barbra Streisand, Adele, Red Hot Chili Peppers and rapper 50 Cent. Needless to say, he's very versatile.