A multiple Grammy-winning artist, ‘Smash’ breakout star Megan Hilty, ‘Glee’s’ Matthew Morrison, Disney films, and more are all part of 2013’s Boston Pops season! Boston Pops have outdone themselves on star power and extraordinary nights of exemplary music.
The Boston Pops kicked off its 2013 season with renowned country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Vince Gill on Wednesday, May 8 and closes its season with country salute to our troops featuring the songwriters from Music City Hitmakers on Saturday, June 15. Visit www.bostonpops.org for more information!
I had the honor of speaking with Keith Lockhart renowned conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.
To hear the audio interview and see a slideshow of the performers in the 2013 season, click here.
Some of the big talent coming to the Boston Pops this year is Vince Gill, Matthew Morrison from the hit show, ‘Glee,’ and Megan Hilty from the popular show, ‘Smash.’ They are all extraordinarily multi-talented individuals. How does the Boston Pops select who they feature each year?
Each year is a giant puzzle that sometimes is several years in the making. Some people who appear with the Pops are people that we have been trying to work out an appearance with for years. Because of film schedules, Broadway commitments, touring schedules, you name it. All of those things are sometimes difficult to pull them in within our very distinct time frame of May and June.
This year we were thrilled with all of our programming this season. In particular, Vince Gill has worked with us before, and had always expressed a desire to come back. He was with us for a Christmas over a decade ago. We try to find people who are not just popular entertainers, but extraordinarily talented and interesting people who we think will really enhance the Pops experience.
Megan Hilty and Matthew Morrison are both young and upcoming stars because of their television exposure. They are said to be two of the next generation of leading men and women on Broadway. This is the first time Megan has done something like this with an orchestra, so we are very excited to be her first for that, and we hope that it forges a great relationship.
Last year you had Bernadette Peters who is a veteran.
Yes, exactly! This year, for instance, in our tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, we are featuring Donna McKechnie who starred in the original production of ‘A Chorus Line’ way back in 1975. It is always a combination of the old, the people who are up and coming, and the people who are established brand names, in that we hope to attract the widest audience possible.
You have a long history of working with many talented people. What are the highlights for you?
I always hate to do that because if I leave somebody out, I feel very bad about that. The Pops have worked with Sting, Celine Dion, Patti LaBelle, jazz greats like Mel Torme and Rosemary Clooney, instrumentalists like Chick Corea, classical artists like Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Pearlman. The Pops have worked with rock musicians like Steven Tyler and John Mellancamp, the list just goes on and on.
After 18 years of conducting, it’s really hard to pick a favorite out of that. There have been a lot of really great collaborative experiences, younger singer-songwriters like Ben Folds, Indie rock bands like ‘My Morning Jacket.’ It’s one of the wonderful things about the Pops, is that we truly collaborate all across the spectrum.
Who do you hope to work with in the future? I know that you have worked with so many people, there might not be many left that you hope to work with at this point.
There are always more fields to conquer that way. Tori Amos, Alicia Keys, I have always wanted to do 4th of July with Bruce Springsteen because I think that would totally take it over the top. I’ve never had the chance to work with Paul Simon. That’s another thing that’s on my bucket list. So, Paul if you are listening, give us a call.
This year, there is big emphasis on Disney.
It is a big emphasis on films. If you look at the animated part of films, Disney is a huge player in that. Two of the times in the season, the hall will actually go dark and we will use it as a giant movie house accompanied by an incredible orchestra. The first week right after opening night with Vince Gill, we will do selected highlights from Disney’s classic ‘Fantasia’ of 1940 plus Fantasia 2000 with an incredible, beautifully restored digital print on our gorgeous screen accompanied by the Boston Pops playing some of the world’s most exultant and inspiring classical music.
In 1940, Disney set the world of animation on its ear with the incredible things it did with ‘Fantasia.’ In the last decade with the success of Pixar, Disney has been doing the same thing with computer animation. They’ve been employing great musicians, composers like Michael Dratino and Randy Newman to write the scores to movies like ‘Up’ and ‘Toy Story,’ and ‘The Incredibles.’ Those shows are to our modern audience what Fantasia was 70 years ago and we are thrilled to be doing that concert as well. There will be an entire evening of great Pixar movie moments with great music that was composed for them.
I understand that the Boston Pops are offering tickets to Watertown residents for two performances of Fantasia coming up.
One of ‘Fantasia’ on May 9 and an additional performance which is part of our Marvin Hamlisch tribute to that incredible Broadway and Hollywood composer who we lost last year on May 15.
Great, and what do you sense the tone is in Boston right now with what happened with Watertown?
I think that Boston has really shown itself to be the great city we all knew it was in these past few weeks. Obviously, this was a terrible shock to people, a feeling of fear and vulnerability, but I think this city has shown it is more resilient than that, and tougher than any terrorist can put a dent in. I think that the function of arts organizations is to provide that community sort of glue, the inspiration, the healing power of music, and we are proud to be helping in that recovery process.
You have been all over the world with your music. What city or country did you visit that you thought you might never see in your life that you had the chance to see?
I have been very fortunate that I’ve gotten to travel to large chunks of the world and a lot of that has been for work, occasionally for just pleasure, and a couple places in Serengeti that one is not likely to find an orchestra to conduct anyway.
In terms of fascinating places where I have performed, where it’s been my music that has brought me there, I’ve done a couple concerts in Abu Dhabi for the royal family. I’ve been to Singapore a few times to work with the orchestra there, and I’ve conducted through Australia, so those are exciting places to get to go.
I understand that you also performed at the Queen’s Jubilee recently.
I did. It is not so much that I never thought that I’d get to go to London, but certainly I never thought that I would get to meet the Queen while I was doing it. My other hat, when I am not conducting the Boston Pops, is as principal conductor of the BBC concert orchestra in London, and we were the orchestra that played for the Big Diamond Jubilee concert on the Buckingham Palace grounds.
I performed in that concert and had the opportunity to meet the Queen, Prince Charles, Lady Camilla, and go to a party in Buckingham Palace hosted by William and Harry. It was kind of a pinch me sort of moment last June.
What do you think you see as the future for the Boston Pops?
The Boston Pops has existed now for 129 years, and its sounding mantra has been to provide music across a broader spectrum of types of musical expression to a broader audience than the one that considers themselves to be strictly classical music fans. That’s what the organization was founded for in 1885 and that is what we stand for today.
Especially as the percentage of people who really think of themselves as deep classical music aficionados grows smaller and smaller, I think our job of bringing the gap between popular culture and orchestral classical arts culture is more and more important. How that will take shape over the next few years in terms of web-based initiatives and internet TV is something that we are working very hard on trying to be a leader in.
Now, you’ve approached so many different pieces of music in your life. How do you approach a challenging score, for example?
Any score, whether it’s a score out of the popular repertoire or a tremendously complicated score from the classical repertoire, is kind of approached the same way. The amount of time you have to spend of course varies on the complexity. The conductor’s job, the part that most people don’t see is a rather lonely existence. It takes place in an office on a desk with a score spread in front of you.
What one tries to do is get in the head of the composer and figure out what all those dots mean, hear the music the same way that a director would, read a play and see it in his or her eye as it unfolded on stage.
Thus a conductor reads a score, and you hear the music in your head, you figure out what you think you thought the composer thought was important, what needed to be brought out, what the composer was trying to say.
You use various analytical tools. By the time you get to the first performance, you know it well enough to instruct a large group of people who presumably don’t know the piece as well as you do in the intricacies of that piece.
What kind of projects are you hoping to achieve in the future in your career?
I’m not big on five year plans. My life has unfolded wonderfully so far. I make a lot of great music and conducted thousands of performances. I’ve enjoyed pretty much every one of them. I think being at the forefront with the Boston Pops and bringing new generations of people to this thrilling thing of live performing arts is very much paramount in my mind. When that is all done I would like to retire to a cabin somewhere in the woods and write a novel.
The Boston Pops 2013 season opens with Vince Gill on May 8 followed by Disney’s Fantasia on Thursday, May 9 through May 11. The Marvin Hamlisch tribute will take place on May 14 and 15. Megan Hilty will make her debut with the Boston Pops on May 23 and 24. Celebrate this year’s featured theme, ‘The Best of Hollywood Film Music’ with the Boston Pops! Visit www.bostonpops.org.