Keith Lockhart knows that orchestra music isn’t for everyone.
But Lockhart thinks the Boston Pops might be able to score a few converts.
We’re the orchestra for people who don’t know they like orchestra music, Lockhart, the Boston Pops’ conductor, said. `We are the essence of crossover.`
That’s because the Boston Pops doesn’t stick to a program of just classical numbers by Mozart and Beethoven. Instead, it mixes traditional orchestra pieces with more contemporary offerings. Earlier this year, for instance, country musicians Rascal Flatts joined the Boston Pops for a show that featured several of Rascal Flatts’ biggest hits, along with the orchestra standard `The 1812 Overture.` A Boston Pops concert that will air on PBS in March features popular artists Sting, John Mayer and Steven Tyler.
The Pops’ Christmas show embodies their mix and match style. The orchestra performs old favorites such as `Sleigh Ride` and `Joy to the World,` along with an audience sing-along. New this year is music from `The Polar Express,` which will be accompanied by narration and pictures from the book.
The show stops at Proctors in Schenectady on Friday, Dec. 5, for an 8 p.m. performance.
`It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,` Proctors marketing assistant Leslie Finn said.
For Lockhart, the show marks a return to the state he called home for many years. The Poughkeepsie native grew up with a keen interest in music, playing piano and clarinet as a kid. He went to college with the idea of becoming a lawyer, but those plans changed when he got his first taste of conducting and found he really liked serving as a teacher and interacting with the audience.
`I found the thing I was most comfortable doing as a musician,` he said.
So, instead of heading to law school, Lockhart headed to Cincinnati, where he served as associate conductor of both the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops orchestras.
He had always been a fan of the Boston Pops, but he never really dreamed of leading the orchestra. The conductor’s job simply isn’t one that becomes available often. Arthur Fielder was the Pops’ conductor from 1930 until his death in 1979. He was followed by John Williams, whose announcement in the early 1990s that he would not return spurred the Pops to look for a young conductor who could appeal to younger audiences, Lockhart said.
So began a courtship with Lockhart, who was `fascinated` by the Pops’ varied programs.
`I thought, gee, this looks like I can do great things here,` he said. `It’s constantly different.`
Lockhart officially took over as conductor in 1995. The numbers dotting his biography speak to how long he’s been at the helm. He’s led the Pops on 32 national tours. He’s made 66 television shows with them. He’s conducted the Pops in more than 1,000 concerts. He’s worked with a seemingly endless number of artists, including k.d. Lang, Celine Dion, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, Natalie Cole, and Mel TormE.
Somehow, Lockhart still has time for a second career. He serves as the music director of the Utah Symphony, an arrangement he said he’s able to pull off by flying a lot.
With the Utah Symphony, he is able to immerse himself in the more classical side of orchestra music.
`I do the more serious side of the music,` he said.
Being involved in both symphonies is ideal because each lets him explore a different interest and in turn invigorates him for the other, he said.
Lockhart took a break from traveling for Thanksgiving, spending the holiday in Boston and gearing up for the Pops’ holiday tour. Proctors has become an annual stop, and Lockhart said he always enjoys performing in Schenectady.
`It’s a great family show,` he said. `We have such a wide range of audiences. There are 4-year-olds with their grandparents and everyone in between.`
Tickets are $20, $40, $70, $80 and $90 and can be purchased through Proctors’ Web site at www.proctors.org or by calling the box office at 346-6204. “