Boston Pops coming to Danville

November 29, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

Keith Lockhart once again will be making a visit Saturday to Danville with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.

The Pops have been to Danville at least four different occasions over the years, but have yet to visit with a holiday performance.

"This will be the first time we've done a holiday show in Danville, and we're really excited. This show (has) a real sense of holiday tradition," Lockhart said.

The program will feature light classics, traditional carols and new holiday music performed as only the Boston Pops can. This will include selections from the orchestra's new holiday recording, "Sleigh Ride."


The last part of the program is a sing-along, with classics such as "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "The Chipmunk Song," to name a few.

"But it's not a sing-along for children only. Or - it's for children of all ages, I should say."

The Pops will be joined by Haley Westenra, an internationally-acclaimed teenage singing sensation, as guest soloist for her first American tour.

"The comparison is made all the time to Charlotte Church, but I think that she is more talented and spectacular," Lockhart says of 17-year-old Westenra.

Westenra is from New Zealand, and has made history in the short time since her first international album, Pure, was released. She became the fastest-selling classical artist of all time in the United Kingdom when her album hit the Top 10 UK pop charts, reaching gold status in less than a week, and soon turning double-platinum.

Highlights of Westenra's past year include a performance for Queen Elizabeth II, a private concert for Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush at the United States Ambassador's residence in London, performing with Jose Carreras at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and performing at the Royal Variety Show alongside of Luciana Pavarotti.

Westenra will be singing classics such as "Do You Hear What I Hear?," "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Go Tell It On the Mountain" for the holiday program.

"It's really amazing that we're getting her on the front of this wave that I know will be hitting. We've already had fan clubs calling us about her," Lockhart said.

He laughed, then added, "Hey - we prefer to be there before everyone else is."

Tenth season as orchestra's conductor

Lockhart is in his 10th season as a conductor for the orchestra, and has conducted more than 750 concerts and made 60 television shows, including 38 new programs for PBS's "Evening at the Pops." Under Lockhart's direction, the orchestra has dramatically broadened its touring activities. "I enjoy the touring, and I feel it's something that's incredibly important. It keeps us in contact with the rest of our audience base, not only in New England but around the nation," Lockhart said.

The orchestra stays busy with anywhere from 125 to 140 concerts a year, with 80 of those being in Boston.

"It's quite amazing what being at too many Ramada bars can do for you," Lockhart jokes.

The Pops performed with Sir Elton John, who always has been on Lockhart's "wish list of people to work with," he says. "He's very gracious, and it was so fun to do. The concert went off particularly well, even though it was raining and there were 40-mile-an-hour wind gusts," Lockhart said as he described the concert they shared with John to kick off the 2004 NFL season at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

As far as appearances that particularly stand out in Lockhart's mind go, he cites the concert at the Super Bowl in 2002. "It was ridiculous. Something ridiculous, (with) millions watching. That had to be our largest audience yet. Very overwhelming."

Releasing collection of holiday classics

This holiday, the orchestra is releasing its first-ever self-produced and -distributed recording, which is a collection of all-time favorite holiday classics. This includes a new performance of Leroy Anderson's classic, "Sleigh Ride."

"The signature tune was written for us," Lockhart noted. "This is the ninth album with the Pops, but the first holiday album in seven years."

Lockhart said that the orchestra's audience had gotten used to hearing them live or on TV, so this is a treat for them.

"The CD is really special to us. It has some classical, from 'Hallelujah Chorus" to popular, R&B, (and) pop songs from the 60s - from the sacred to secular," Lockhart added.

The CD will not be released in stores until next year, but can be purchased online if "they want to get a copy of it before their neighbors do," Lockhart joked.

Project took lots of time

Lockhart said the orchestra and he underestimated the time it takes to produce its own album. "This was a totally self-done project, the largest-scale project that has ever been produced by an orchestra on their own."

In reference to the holiday production, Lockhart said he's fond of a specific format: "Songs from the Hill Folk," an Appalachian collection.

"And it's something relative to where we'll be. It really moves the audience and we see a lot of enthusiasm during that part of the program."

Lockhart also added he is excited and looking forward to being back in Kentucky, where he resided for five years while he was the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops orchestras.

"You know the jokes that people from Ohio make about those living in Covington, right? Well, I used to ask them 'Would you rather live in Cincinnati and have the Covington skyline as a view, or live in Covington and have the Cincinnati skyline as a view?' That always got them."

You can purchase a copy of the Pops' new CD, "Sleigh Ride," by calling (888) 266-1200, or online through

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