Ashleigh Prince spoke with Keith Lockhart about his career, the Boston Pops Holiday Tour, holiday traditions and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Ashleigh: Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. Today, we’re talking with Keith Lockhart from the Boston Pops Holiday Tour. Hello, Keith!
Keith: Hi, Ashleigh! How are you?
Ashleigh: I’m great, how are you?
Keith: Better than I was last year around this time.
Ashleigh: I know! I think that we’re all so excited to be back in the theatre and back appreciating all of this art that comes to our stage every year. We are really excited for the return of the Boston Pops. I know it’s really a Worcester favorite.
Keith: We have been coming to Worcester for years, long before I was conductor of the orchestra, and I’ve been conductor for 26 years now. These last two years, we have not done a tour concert anywhere since the holiday season in 2019. We are so excited to be reconnecting with our friends at The Hanover Theatre.
Ashleigh: As are we! This holiday season, we have so many great shows coming. We just had The Nutcracker and Sarah Brightman: Christmas Symphony, and aside from the Boston Pops, we have Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical and A Christmas Carol. It really feels good to be back and bringing that holiday magic to our city.
Keith: Sounds like a really full schedule!
Ashleigh: It is! Our productions are getting everyone really excited. We’re really excited to be welcoming back everyone to The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. For those of us that are not familiar with the Boston Pops and you, could you give us a little introduction and information about what you can expect from the Holiday Pops?
Keith: Sure! The Boston Pops is America’s Orchestra, we play music of all types, all genres and all periods, from classical music written for orchestra, to contemporary singer/songwriter, jazz and rock & roll music and everything in between. I like to say that we’re the orchestra for the people who don’t know that they love orchestras. The Holiday Pops at the Boston Pops is an incredibly deep-seated tradition, particularly back in Boston, where we will present 32 concerts at Symphony Hall between December 2 – December 24. It’s something that people make an annual part of their holiday ritual.
In my 26 years, I’ve seen people come as little kids and come back 20 years later and bring their own kids with them, which is kind of sweet and kind of scary at the same time. Our holiday concert, I think, tries to really make sure that there’s something on the program that everybody leaves going, ‘They must’ve played that [song] just for me.’Keith Lockhart
Keith: It’s a mixture of serious and reflective and spiritual moments with a lot of good fun. The opportunity to hear the amazing Metropolitan Chorale of Brookline will be joining us, and they’ve joined us every year that we’ve been at The Hanover Theatre. Just the music washing over you, the joy of the season and the fact that we’re all together again in fellowship over the course of this two hours, I really hope everybody leaves a little brighter and with a little more bounce in their step than they had when they came in.
Ashleigh: Right! I’m curious, what are your top three songs that we’ll be hearing at the Boston Pops?
Keith: One thing that I like that’s a little different, and that we haven’t played for the Worcester audience, at least in a very long time, is Duke Ellington’s take on The Nutcracker. It’s really amazing and jazzy, and you’ll recognize the basic tune but the treatment is very different from what you’re used to hearing on the speakers in the mall. We also have a glorious arrangement of “The Christmas Song,” which is maybe my favorite modern Christmas classic that I always like playing for people and it leaves everybody with a tear in their eye. Back in 2014, for the 100th anniversary of World War I, we commissioned a piece that talked about an amazing moment of peace and fellowship in the midst of the trench and warfare of World War I, where people from all sides of the conflict came out and broke bread together and sang and embraced. It was a magical moment, and I thought about this year and how we’re all getting tentatively out of our own foxholes and trenches and trying to come back into the world. Every year, we celebrate during this season, but this year, we celebrate things slightly differently and we celebrate slightly different things because it’s reflective of what’s gone on in our lives recently.
To me, this year is about celebrating community, which is what the holidays are about. We’ve been in our pods and we’ve been, mostly, I hope, with our loved ones, but the holidays are about reaching out broader. They’re about coming together with people you barely know or don’t know at all, and realizing that underneath it all, we all have a lot in common.Keith Lockhart
Keith: I think this concert is going to be reflective of that and I hope that it brings peace and joy to the people we play it for.
Ashleigh: I think that the moment you return is going to be electric. I’m thinking that the audience is just going to feel so happy and warm and excited to be back.
Keith: I hope you’re right!
Ashleigh: I also hear that Santa occasionally makes an appearance at the Boston Pops Holiday Tour. Can we expect to see him there?
Keith: Yes, we have a very close relationship with the Big Man in the red suit and he’s always been very kind to the Boston Pops. We look forward to welcoming him back, because how could we kick off the Christmas season without him?
Ashleigh: Absolutely! I’ve heard that he’s hard to get ahold of, but we’re all very eager to welcome him, too! Another piece of the production is the holiday sing-along, can we expect that as well during this production?
Keith: Traditionally, we always do a holiday sing-along. This year, on the advice of all the protocols that have been laid down, while we can’t stop people from singing, we are not specifically coming up with a moment where we want everybody to open their mouths simultaneously. We are going to stick to all of the COVID protocols and try to make everyone feel safe and comfortable, and hope that people are singing along in their hearts. This will be behind us and we will move past this. It’s important, right now, to remember that those things you cherish are still there.
Ashleigh: I agree. Aside from our shows and our excitement for that, we also have the return of our in-person Conservatory classes at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory, which cover many great things from acting to singing, to set design and performance. I’m curious, as a conductor, do you have any advice for Conservatory students that are returning to their craft at this time?
Keith: Certainly, the performing arts have collectively gone through an extremely difficult time in these last couple of years, because the very first thing to go away was this idea of congregating to see something else happen. In the case of an orchestra, it’s even worse because we have a large, tightly packed congregation on stage playing for another large, tightly packed congregation in the audience. I would say, now is the time where people who truly love the arts and believe in the power of the arts are really needed. It’s up to all of us who know how much positive power these things have over the human condition. We need to get out there, get into the trenches, and need to convince people to climb out, come down from the tree and know that it’s okay to be with other people and experience art being made. This is a call for everyone who believes that to come out and join me.
Ashleigh: Absolutely. If you haven’t gotten your tickets for the Boston Pops Holiday Tour at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts on December 3rd, please visit TheHanoverTheatre.org or contact the Box Office at 877.571.SHOW (7469). Get your tickets now! This is a treasured classic and you do not want to miss out.