The Boston Pops surely knows how to open a new season! Symphony Hall was festively decorated with colored lights, exquisite projections, and lots of flowers. There was excitement coming from the staff, the orchestra and--of course--the audience. The reason was the evening's guest star: Queen Latifah, who has made a reputation for herself in hip-hop, and then went off to featured roles in such movies as CHICAGO and HAIRSPRAY. Ms Latifah took over the second half of the program, singing songs by Bessie Smith as well as a good share of infectious hip-hop. When she asked the audience if they were happy, she was greeted by an anthusiastic roar of approval. This is a woman who knows how to deliver the goods and had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.
After the concert, Maestro Keith Lockhart was questioned as to whether this was the first time hip-hop had been heard in Symphony Hall and he explained that it wasn't. It had been part of the Gospel Night programs that the Pops performs each season. It was nothing new, but to have it performed by a luminary like Queen Latifah made it very special.
From the stage, Maestro Lockhart announced that the 2017 Boston Pops season would be a celebration of John Williams' music, Williams the composer of such Hollywood scores as E.T., RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, JAWS, TOWERING INFERNO and SUPERMAN, is the Conductor Laureate of the Pops and the orchestra will be releasing a new CD of his music this spring. Maestro Williams marks his 85th birthday this year.
As part of the Williams celebration, both E.T. and JAWS will be screened in Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops playing the score live under the screen while Lockhart conducts. Anyone who has seen such presentations knows how special they are and these are sure to be memorable--and family friendly--events. There will also be evenings devoted solely to the music of John Williams with both Williams and Lockhart sharing the podium.
In a phone call, Keith Lockhart was enthusiastic about the new season, he spoke about the Williams tribute and the special Cirque de la Symphonie. New York Theatergoers recently enjoyed the musical PARAMOUR which featured many acts from Cirque de Soliel: acrobats, jugglers, trapeze artists, balancing acts and aerial performers. "This will be something mesmerizing for both children and adults," the conductor mentioned. In fact, because of the program's appeal to families, children will be admitted for half price to the matinees for this program as well as any other matinee this season.
"We're very happy to have Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. performing with us this season," continued Lockhart, "This is the young man who orginated the role of Aaron Burr in the much acclaimed musical HAMILTON and appeared on television's SMASH. He has just released his first CD, which hit #1 on Billboard's Jazz chart." Odom will be joining the Pops on June 6th.
The conductor is very excited about the presentation of a symphonic SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, which had been presented in a simpler form by the Roundabout Theater in New York a few seasons ago. According to Lockhart, it's "an affectionate and revealing tribute to the musical theater's greatest living composer and lyricist. It was created by James Lapine and featured a ten piece orchestra. Here at the Pops, we'll re-work the arrangements into something new and lush. " The orchestra will be augmented by Sondheim's own words on film, the Pops orchestra and singers." For the Pops presentation, the singers will include Broadway regulars Philip Boykin, Carmen Cusack, Gabriel Ebert and Lisa Howard, who will be joined by the Vocal Fellows from the 2017 Tanglewood Music Center class.
Lockhart was very happy to say that the Boston Pops have regained the production of theannual Fourth of July Spectacular, which will take place at the Esplanade along the Charles River and broadcast on Bloomberg Television. "We're happy to say that the concert will be broadcast in its entirety, with the 1812 Overture and cannons at the end of the evening. It'll also include the spectacular fireworks display that everyone looks forward to." The cast will include Melissa Etheridge and pop sensation Andy Grammer." Those who have witnessed these concerts in person or on television know how exciting these evenings can be.
Oh, and there will be one last concert in Symphony Hall: the 25th Annual Gospel Night, conducted by Charles Floyd, will take place on June 17th. There'll be a joyful noise that'll get the crows on their feet and might even include a bit more hip-hop--for those who can't get enough of it!
For a complete schedule of the Boston Pop's season and to buy tickets, go to: BSO.ORG