On May 4, 2010 at 8 p.m., Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops open the orchestra’s landmark 125th anniversary season with a gala three-part program honoring the distinctive legacies of its most famous conductors – Mr. Lockhart, John Williams, and Arthur Fiedler. The concert, which features guest soloists Broadway sensation Idina Menzel (Wicked, Rent), legendary trumpeter Doc Severinsen (“The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”), and pianist Michael Chertock, an artist who’s work Keith Lockhart has championed throughout his 15-year tenure with the Pops, celebrates the orchestra’s rich tradition of performing an innovative blend of great music, from beloved classics to cutting-edge contemporary favorites.
The concert’s opening highlights the extraordinary legacy of Arthur Fiedler (Pops Conductor 1930-79), the Pops’ legendary maestro for nearly half a century. One of the most beloved figures in Boston music history, he put the Pops on the map beginning in the 1930s and elevated the orchestra into a treasured national institution celebrated for its groundbreaking embrace of both classical and popular music. For this tribute, pianist Michael Chertock joins Keith Lockhart and the orchestra for a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
The program continues under the direction of Keith Lockhart with a series of musical selections that showcase the distinctive contributions of conductor/composer John William (Pops Conductor, 1980-93). Mr. Williams is one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for film, and this section of the concert features the orchestra in some of the special arrangements focuses on the great movie scores he has brought to life for Pops audiences. The inimitable Doc Severinsen, the longtime trumpeter, bandleader, and irreverent sidekick on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” makes a special appearance. He is one of the very few performers to have collaborated with all three of the evening’s tribute conductors.
Keith Lockhart (Pops Conductor 1994-present) leads the program’s grand finale, which highlights the Pops’ present-day accomplishments and provides a lighthearted glimpse into what the future may hold for “America’s Orchestra.” Multiple Tony Award-winning actress/vocalist Idina Menzel, featured this spring in new episodes of the hit TV show “Glee!,” is the soloist for this portion of the program. The Broadway powerhouse sings hits from two of her most famous shows, Rent and Wicked, as well as songs from her album I Stand.
The Opening Night concert extends the opportunity to the entire audience with the world premiere of The Beatles: Rock Band Sing-Along. Produced in collaboration with videogame development company Harmonix Music (producers of the wildly popular game The Beatles: Rock Band), their parent company, MTV, and the Beatles’ record label, Apple Records, “The Beatles: Rock Band Sing-Along,” is a fully orchestrated audience sing along featuring some of The Beatles’ iconic songs synched to the groundbreaking game design projected above the orchestra on the Pops’ 44-foot-wide screen. The Beatles: Rock Band Sing-Along connects past to present in that Arthur Fiedler was among the first to recognize the incredible musical force the Beatles would become when he arranged, programmed (around 1964), and recorded (“The Boston Pops Plays the Beatles” in 1969), including “Hey Jude,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and more.
With the 125th anniversary season, the Boston Pops reaches a landmark moment in a remarkable history that began with its founding in 1885. Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the Boston Symphony (1881) and Boston Pops, intended from the very start to present concerts of light classics and the popular music of the day.
It was Arthur Fiedler’s nearly 50-year tenure as Pops Conductor (1930-1979) that established the Boston Pops as a national icon by moving the Pops beyond its origins in light-classical music into the world of pop culture showcasing the popular artists of the day as well as the work of young American composers and arrangers. Mr. Fiedler organized the first free outdoor orchestral concerts on the Charles River Esplanade that led to the Boston’s now-famous Fourth of July concert, established the Pops as the most recorded orchestra in history--including the first orchestral recording to sell more than a million copies--and introduced the “Evening at Pops” television series, bringing the orchestra into the living rooms of countless Americans.
When John Williams (1980-1993) succeeded Arthur Fiedler in 1980, he was the most highly acclaimed composer in Hollywood, and today, with 45 Academy Award nominations, he is the most-nominated living person in Academy history. With the Pops, Mr. Williams continued the orchestra’s prolific recording tradition with a series of best-selling recordings for the Philips and Sony Classical labels, broadened and updated the Pops repertoire--commissioning new compositions and introducing new arrangements of Boston Pops classics--and entertained audiences with live orchestral accompaniment to film clips of memorable movie scenes, many of which featured iconic music from his own film scores. He traveled extensively with the Pops both nationally and internationally, leading the Pops on its first tours to Japan. Mr. Williams also brought a bit of Hollywood to the Pops stage, with special appearances by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Frank Langella, not to mention Darth Vader, R2D2, and C3PO.
Having led more than 1,200 Boston Pops concerts, Keith Lockhart (1995 - present) is now in his sixteenth season as Boston Pops Conductor. In response to the ever-diversifying trends in music, Keith Lockhart has taken the Pops in new directions, creating programs that reach out to a broader and younger audience by presenting artists--both established performers and rising stars--from virtually every corner of the entertainment world, all the while maintaining the Pops' appeal to its core audience. He has made 67 television shows, led 33 national and four overseas tours with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and recorded eleven albums. Mr. Lockhart's tenure has been marked by a dramatic increase in touring, the orchestra’s first Grammy nominations, the first major network national broadcast (on CBS Television) of the Fourth-of-July spectacular from the Esplanade, and the release of the Boston Pops’ first self-produced and self-distributed recordings, now numbering four: Sleigh Ride, America, Oscar & Tony, and The Red Sox Album. He led the Pops for Chris Botti’s “In Boston” CD and DVD, featuring special guests Sting, John Mayer, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, and Steven Tyler, recorded live from two performances at Symphony Hall. The recording received multiple Grammy nominations earlier this year and the show was aired on PBS stations nationally. Mr. Lockhart has also led the Boston Pops at several high profile sports events, including the pre-game show of Super Bowl XXXVI and the opening game of the 2007 World Series, at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox.