BWW Interview: Keith Lockhart Talks Christmas at the Boston Pops

At this time of the year children all over the world are in a state of excitement. Of course they're all eager for Santa to visit leaving them toys and other gifts, but there are the lights, the animated store windows, the promise of ice skating and the wonderful sounds of Christmas carols in the air. It all puts the wonder in the eyes of the younger ones.

This is very much the case in the home of Maestro Keith Lockhart, who will begin his 21st season of conducting the Boston Pops' famed Holiday concerts on December 2nd. Lockhart is the proud father of three boys, 3, 5 and 12. Speaking by phone, the conductor says, "They're very much in the Christmas spirit at this point. They're pretty darn excited. It's fun but it's exhausting." Lockhart will be even more exhausted by the end of the month after having conducted a total of 43 concerts during the festive season. That's quite a bit of time on the podium as he leads one of America's most beloved orchestras.

"We're doing a few new things," Lockhart days. "As you know, we often tell holiday stories at the Pops. Stories like 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' and 'The Polar Express'. This year we're telling the original Christmas story--the story of the Nativity-- drawing music from beloved carols and the text taken from the Gospels. It's a new version of a work we premiered a few years ago and features two amazing baritones: a young man named Justin Hopkins from Philadelphia and Duane Moody who teaches at the Berkley School of Music. The two of them are really great. We're bringing them back in the second half of the program for a Louie Armstrong tune called 'Cool Yule' and a little mash up of 'Blue Christmas' as well."

Fans of the Boston Pops are aware of the ingenious arrangement David Chase did of the perennial favorite "The Twelve Days of Christmas" a few seasons ago. It was played at many a Christmas party and notably on Long Island's radio station WALK-AM's program called "Jack Ellsworth's Memories in Melody". The show host played the selection throughout December and asked listeners to identify the musical quotations that were found throughout. It generated quite a bit of excitement on the local airwaves and a considerable uptick in mail to the radio station.

This season David Chase will be at it again. "He's providing what we hope will be a new holiday classic," Lockhart remarks. "It's called 'Wonderful' and its foundation is 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,' but as you can imagine, it contains everything but the kitchen sink as well."

In addition to 39 concerts in Symphony Hall, there will also be performances in Lowell, MA: Worchester, MA; Provident, RI; and U Conn, CT during the holiday season. For those concerts, the orchestra will be joined by the Metropolitan Chorale of Brookline, while the concerts at Symphony Hall will have the Tanglewood Symphony Chorus holding forth.

Of course, Santa Claus will make his annual appearance at the Pops concerts. He's been known to engage the maestro in some very witty banter or pick up the baton and conduct the orchestra. What's on the agenda of Santa this year? The normally loquacious Keith Lockhart becomes a bit evasive when it comes to this topic. "That's always based on what he wants to do when he comes down from the North Pole," he says. "I'll find out when he shows up." Hmm......

For those whose children are as excited about the upcoming holiday as Lockhart's boys are, the Pops will be offering special kiddie concerts on Saturday mornings at 11 o'clock. The performances will be conducted by Lockhart and will last approximately an hour, focusing more on music which is more suitable for younger audiences. These concerts are an excellent way to introduce youngsters to the thrill of hearing a live orchestra. They're even great for adults who are young at heart.. and who isn't at this time of year?

For more information about the Boston Pops and their Holiday Concerts, go to: Home | Boston Symphony Orchestra |

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From This Author Joseph F. Panarello

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