The holidays wouldn’t be complete without classic songs like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” or “Sleigh Ride.”
At least not for the Boston Pops. For the first time in several years, the Pops, led by conductor Keith Lockhart, is bringing those tunes, along with a few classic Christmas stories and a central holiday character, to Proctors on Monday. It’s part of a tradition that’s over 40 years in the making and one that’s still going strong, according to Lockhart.
Before the performance on Monday, The Gazette caught up with Lockhart to talk about how the holiday tour has grown and why he loves embarking on it each year.
Q: Since you took over as conductor, how has this holiday Pops tour changed?
A: We do approximately 50 concerts in the month of December; if only there were 50 days in December. So one way it’s changed is certainly in terms of quantity. When I started with the Pops in ‘95 I think we were doing about 14 or 15 holiday concerts. We’ve been all over the country and in Canada with this tour over the years. In the early years of the tour we used to play big arenas one night at a time on the west coast of the U.S. and we’re not doing that as much anymore. But I think we’ve continued to grow a huge and appreciative audience not just in Boston but in some of the places we play year in and year out. So much so that we have people who were kids coming to the concerts when I started the tour, now bringing their kids to the concerts. They come up and tell me that and that both makes me feel very old and touched.
Q: Can you tell me about the program?
A: When you do a concert for a tradition like the holidays, [you have to] balance what people expect to hear, things that make people comfortable to hear. Part of the holidays is that it’s something that’s familiar and I think in a world that seems very unfamiliar these days, that’s probably even a more appreciated feature. That having been said, we try to vary the program each year with music both from the classical tradition and more recent, more contemporary arrangements and really try to make sure there’s something for everyone who’s in the audience, especially for families because it’s that time of the year where we have the most kids in the audience. We are touring with the Metropolitan Chorale, which is based in Brookline, Massachusetts and has been touring with us for the last several years. With them, we’ll do music from the classical Christmas canon, music for the holidays that dates back 100 years or more. We are doing a beautiful version of the original “Christmas Story,” set for narrator and chorus and orchestra. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Sleigh Ride,” which are two things that are traditional for us. We would be booed off the stage if we didn’t play them. Telling the story of “Twas the Night Before Christmas a Visit from Saint Nicholas” with a local narrator and of course, as is traditional at Boston Pops concerts, a sing-along, because everybody loves to sing, with several thousand of their friends with a great orchestra and I’m told there will be an appearance by a big guy in a red suit who maintains a special relationship with the Boston Pops.
Q: You mentioned that you tend to have a lot more kids than [usual] in the audience. Do you think that people who wouldn’t necessarily see a [Pops] concert, [attend the shows]?
A: Oh, sure. It’s the time of the year where we’re well aware that people come out to concerts because they’re excited about the holidays, more than particularly [the] Boston Pops. And that’s thrilling because we get to introduce a lot of people to what I think are extraordinarily good and fun holiday experiences that I hope become traditions for them. It is a great way to introduce people, especially people’s children and families to the splendor of a great orchestra and [it’s] a great chance to bring people together under the umbrella of the holidays.
Q: Why do you love this tradition?
A: There’s no performer who doesn’t love having a really enthusiastic audience. It’s a time of the year when people are really poised to have a good time. They really want to enjoy themselves and really want to be a part of the magic of the concert. Nobody feels like they’re being dragged there. So the fact that I see probably about 100,000 people or so over the next few weeks who seem to really love what we’re able to give to them, it makes up for me not seeing my own family for most of that time.
Q: Anything people [should] know ahead of the show?
A: Many people have impressions of Boston Pops. They have our recordings, they’ve seen us on TV, they’ve seen the huge Fourth of July celebration. I would tell them that you really haven’t seen the Boston Pops until you’ve seen us live. There’s an energy about these shows and an excitement about them that I think really translates. I would encourage people, either those who haven’t seen us for a few years since the last time we were at Proctors or people who have never been, to take this opportunity to check out the magic of the Boston Pops.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday
MORE INFO: proctors.org