"America's Orchestra" plays much-anticipated concert at Hohokam Stadium.
The Boston Pops is affectionately known as “America’s Orchestra” and for good reason. For nearly 130 years, they’ve been performing a combination of classical, Broadway and pop music that everyone can enjoy.
While their performances are regularly broadcast on PBS, you can catch a live performance this weekend when they perform outdoors at Hohokam Stadium, under the direction of longtime conductor, Keith Lockhart.
Lockhart, who follows in the footsteps of John Williams and Arthur Fiedler, chatted with the Tribune about music, the day he met the Queen and America’s current political climate.
Q: The Boston Pops is known as America’s Orchestra. How do you interpret that on a day-to-day basis?
A: I think there’s a couple of reasons that name has grown up over the years. Of all orchestras, we have the most national and widespread constituency. When we tour, it feels like we’re playing on homecourt. It’s a fun position to be in.
Q: How have you expanded the pops genre into the 21st century?
A: The idea was to throw the net open wide. I like to steal this quote from Arthur Fiedler: ‘We only play one kind of music, the interesting kind.’ The programing we’re doing on this tour is called ‘The Very Best of the Boston Pops.’ It’s the music of Bernstein, Copeland and Ellington. For the Mesa program, we were asked by the presenters to do a foreshadowing of the holidays. So we’re playing some of the holiday music that Phoenix fans associate with us and arrangements that were done specifically for us. In Mesa, we hope we’ll get a lot of families. That’s the great thing about an outdoor concert.
Q: You’ve led the symphony for nearly 20 years. What do you see as your stamp on the orchestra?
A: When my amazing predecessor, John Williams, came to the orchestra, he had very rarely conducted live (he came from a Hollywood tradition). I come from the live performance tradition. I like to think my stamp is a personal connection so the audience thinks they know me. I deal with and talk to the audience quite a bit. I get to be the intermediary between the orchestra and the audience and the audience and the music.
Q: You’re also the conductor for one of the BBC Orchestras and played at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration. What did you take away from that?
A: It was one of those pinch me moments. I’m really lucky I got to do it. To share the stage with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Lang Lang. It was an amazing event. I got to meet the Queen. I was in the (greeting line) sandwiched between Grace Jones and Andrew Lloyd Webber. After being introduced by Prince Charles to the Queen, I went to a party at Buckingham Palace hosted by William and Harry.
Q: It’s been a tough year politically with the government shutdown, the struggles with the Affordable Care Act, etc. What role do you think the Boston Pops has as America’s Orchestra in all that?
A: I’m as annoyed as anyone with the creeping dysfunction and the inability to come together around anything. Personal political views aside, this shows that there are things that are unifying — great music and the arts and the celebration of the best things about America and the great things we’ve accomplished and achieved and (that we can) come together around something better.