Keith Lockhart returns Thursday to the Newlin Hall stage, but in a different guise this year. Lockhart, who typically comes through the arts center as the conductor for the Boston Pops Orchestra, this year returns as the new principal conductor for the BBC Concert Orchestra — Lockhart’s “other charge across the pond,” he says — a position he assumed last summer.
“The BBC Concert Orchestra is a wonderful group,” Lockhart said in a recent telephone interview. “I’ve been working with them the last few seasons in the U.K.”
It’s a position that is somewhat similar to the one he serves with the Boston Pops, Lockhart added.
The BBC Concert Orchestra is known for its versatility, Lockhart said. It often performs classical-type concerts as well as for soundtracks and other recordings. It collaborates with contemporary artists as well. “I’m respectful of an orchestra that can play anything,” said Lockhart.
The concert the BBC Concert Orchestra will bring to the Norton Center for the Arts will be a “really popular and appealing symphonic orchestra concert. In it will be works by Felix Mendelssohn and Ralph Vaughan Williams as well as Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev will perform as the special guest of the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Danville concert.
“He worked with me in my guise as music director at the Utah Symphony a couple of seasons ago,” Lockhart said of Yakushev. “He is still on the rise as a performer in this country . ...”
Lockhart said the great thing about working with the BBC group is he felt comfortable rehearsing with them.
“British and American musicians come from a fairly similar place. I felt at home instantly,” he explained. “I felt like I knew what to say to get the right results.
“It’s a very, very quick band. London has perhaps the most competitive music environment in the world, and they’re almost all great orchestras. ... (As a) result, the people are dedicated. The orchestra is a lot of fun. They enjoy their jobs.”
Lockhart and the BBC orchestra began their tour Thursday, and will be on the road for about three weeks. Then he gets to fly home and see his new baby — “I have a 7-month-old who I will miss very much,” Lockhart said — before his family and he head out for a Thanksgiving getaway. Then holiday Pops concerts hit “like a ton of bricks,” he added.
“We have 41 concerts in December. It’s a busy period of time ,” Lockhart explained. “It’s a great season to make music. We’ve had holiday concerts (for years). It’s a very important part of the repertoire.
About the BBC Concert Orchestra
There are orchestras who will tell you that they were born to play Beethoven. And there are ensembles that mix it with modern music. But there’s nothing quite like the BBC Concert Orchestra. All the Bs are in its repertoire, from Bach to Bernstein and Bassey — Shirley, that is, whom the orchestra recently partnered for BBC Two and Radio 2 at the BBC Electric Proms. (Soul legend Smokey Robinson was the other guest during the series.)
If light music from G&S to Eric Coates shines brightly in this orchestra’s firmament, then graver ancients and moderns glitter in its programs too, and in its recordings — which embrace Haydn, Mozart, Rossini and Elgar alongside Ives, Stravinsky, John Adams and Colin Matthews.
“Versatility” and “flexibility” are the BBC Concert Orchestra’s bywords. Its standard 56-strong membership can expand or contract according to what’s on the program. Bring in a saxophone section and it’s an up-front big band, perfect for accompanying top-drawer West End artists for Radio 2. Increase the strings and they’re ready to play Elgar’s Violin Concerto with Nigel Kennedy at the Proms. And if melody is the orchestra’s ‘magnetic north’, who’s complaining? It may be stretching a metaphor a bar too far, but melody can be a welcoming port in the midst of many modern musical storms.
The BBC Concert Orchestra has been described as a band of “serious musicians with a sense of humor.” But one look at its hectic schedule and burgeoning repertoire, and most of us would curl up and die before we found our sense of humor. Friday Night is Music Night, the orchestra’s best-known radio showcase, which catches the ears of over 750,000 listeners every week, is usually polished for broadcasting in just one three-and-a-half hour session on the day itself. Off-air there’s a fine catalogue of CDs with award-winning soundtracks for TV and the movies. Most recently there’s the continuing series of British music recordings on the Dutton Epoch label, as well as scores for Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 and the BBC’s Nature’s Great Events.
About Keith Lockhart
Keith Lockhart currently serves as conductor of the Boston Pops, artistic director of the Brevard Music Center Summer Institute and Festival, and music director emeritus of the Utah Symphony. His leadership of the Utah Symphony from 1998-2009 allowed him to stand at the front of that organization’s historic merger with the Utah Opera to create the first-ever joint administrative arts entity of the Utah Symphony and Opera. Since the merger, arts institutions nationally and internationally have looked to Maestro Lockhart as an example of an innovative thinker on and off the podium.
During the 2010 season, Lockhart will celebrate his 15th anniversary as conductor of the Boston Pops. In February 1995, he was named the 20th conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra since its founding in 1885. During the last 15 years, he has conducted over 1,200 concerts and made over 70 television shows, including 38 new programs for PBS’s Evening at Pops; the annual July Fourth spectacular, produced by Boston’s WBZ-TV and shown nationally on CBS Television; and the orchestra’s annual holiday special, produced and aired in Boston on WBZ-TV and nationally on PBS. The Boston Pops’ 2002 July Fourth broadcast was Emmy-nominated, and the Evening at Pops telecast of “Fiddlers Three” won the 2002 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.
Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, Maestro Lockhart began his musical studies on piano at the age of 7, and holds degrees from Furman University and Carnegie Mellon University. He also holds honorary doctorates from the Boston Conservatory, Boston University, Northeastern University, Furman University, and Carnegie Mellon University, among others.
More information is available at www.KeithLockhart.com and www.cami.com.