Worried about orchestra audiences getting older? Maestro Keith Lockhart, poised to launch the spring season of the acclaimed Boston Pops, has no such concerns.
Says Lockhart, “The acclaimed Boston music critic, Philip Hale, was writing about the same issue more than a century ago. It’s nothing new. In fact, it makes sense that classical music is something you come to over time.
“In life, your palate expands as you grow older. You’re not typically building a fine wine collection at age 22. As you age, you look for things that make you look a little deeper at life.”
Lockhart actually sees a different form of trouble on the horizon.
“Older audiences are accustomed to putting up with the aggravations that attending a live performance entails,” he says. “You’ve got to pay the babysitter, drive in the rain, sit in a less than comfortable seat, and share the space with strangers. In that sense, the arts are a social occasion, a chance to share our common humanity.
“Younger people are growing up experiencing entertainment, and quite frankly distraction, on small screens, which are immediate, totally personal, and right in their hands. They’re not sharing the experience with anyone, and they’re doing it when and where they want to. This is a very different experience from what you get in a concert hall.”
Lockhart recognizes that attending a performance of serious music requires “full immersion and intense focus”— not only from the performers, but from the audience as well.
“If convenience is your motivating factor,” Lockhart says, “you may not want to come to a concert. Our job as musicians is to remain steadfast in offering, for example, the experience of what Mahler felt like when he composed his 7th Symphony.
“Unfortunately today, people never stop stimulating their brains in low-level ways, whether it’s playing a video game or watching a rerun. Whatever happened to just sitting there and thinking?”
This is why Lockhart prizes his role as Conductor of the Pops, which he views as “the great outreach arm of the classical music industry. There’s no orchestra like it in this country or in the world that plays such a wide variety of music at such a high level.”
This Spring Pops season celebrates the work of Conductor Laureate John Williams, who lead the Pops for 14 years and who is, of course, world famous for having composed the scores to Superman, E.T., Star Wars, and many other top films.
“If it weren’t for John Williams,” Lockhart says, “90% of the world’s population would never have heard great music written and performed for orchestra.”
Music lovers in Boston will have ample opportunity to experience Williams’ work, in a multitude of forms, as the Pops’ season celebrates the composer’s 85th birthday.
“Just look at the totality of Williams’ career,” Lockhart says. “There have been nine decades of films with sound. John has credits in seven of those nine decades! His work covers an immense swath of Hollywood history.”
Most people know Williams for E.T. and Star Wars, Lockhart adds, but he also composed the music for Earthquake, the Poseidon Adventure, and even Heidi back in the 1960s.
“I remember the Heidi Bowl,” Lockhart adds, laughing. “You were watching the Jets and the Raiders, and suddenly you’re seeing the Swiss Alps instead of Lyle Alzado.”
This Pops season kicks off with Queen Latifah, whom Lockhart describes as “an outstanding singer of the Great American Songbook, in addition to all the other things she’s known for. It’s going to be really fun to work with her.”
Pops-goers will also see Lockhart conducting the full orchestra accompanying two movies— Jaws and E.T.
“People don’t realize the difficulty of conducting a live orchestra with a movie,” Lockhart says. “The scores were not initially composed for live performance. There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into getting it right for the symphony setting.”
In addition, Pops-goers will enjoy an Abba tribute band, the B-52s and a big 80s party, and a world premiere of the orchestral version of Sondheim on Sondheim, celebrating that theater composer’s great work.
“Pops is a great way for people who aren’t avid symphony-goers to
experience this kind of entertainment,” Lockhart says. “It’s music you know and performers you recognize. If you’ve never been to a concert before, or if you haven’t been in a long time, this could lead to a new love.”
For further information or tickets, www.BSO.org.