Prior to the cancellation of The Boston Pops on Tour’s spring performance Lights, Camera … Music! Six Decades of John Williams, we talked to Maestro Keith Lockhart about his experience with the Boston Pops and the music of John Williams. Maestro Lockhart succeeded John Williams as the conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1995 and has led them in over 1900 concerts since then. He has been instrumental in guiding Boston Pops’ mission of bringing powerful orchestral music to millions of people. Read on to learn more about his career, the John Williams program, and the Boston Pops Orchestra!
Where did the inspiration for an all-John Williams program come from?
John Williams has been an important part of the life of the Boston Pops for over 40 years now. He was my predecessor as Conductor and has remained closely associated with the organization for the 25 years I have been in that role. His music is part of the lifeblood of our orchestra, and no one plays the music of John Williams better than the Boston Pops. A couple of years ago, in honor of John’s 85th birthday, we made a recording, Lights, Camera, Music!. This concert program was born out of that recording and out of our immense respect and love for John and his accomplishments.
What is the most challenging piece of music in your current repertoire and why?
Pretty much every piece on this particular concert is extremely difficult, for individual players and for the orchestra as a whole. One element that makes John’s music so thrilling for the audience is that he writes to the technical limits of each instrument; he truly uses the orchestra virtuosically. Among my favorite dazzling moments in this particular concert are “The Devil’s Dance” from The Witches of Eastwick and the well-known “Main Title” from Star Wars … everyone knows it, but that doesn’t make it any easier!
How long and how often do you rehearse each week?
The Pops will meet for a single rehearsal in the week prior to traveling to the Midwest and bringing the music of John Williams to you. This may seem like brief preparation, but we have played this particular concert on tours all over the country, so it’s really a chance to get together and polish everything. We also expect intense, individual preparation from each musician.
Typically, how many shows do you perform in a season?
The Pops plays 100 to 110 concerts in a typical year: around 35 in the spring season leading up to the 4th of July, nearly 50 Holiday Pops concerts, and 20-30 other appearances — Tanglewood, touring, and private concerts — over the course of a typical year.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a conductor?
Keeping it all together. The concert, the ensemble among the musicians, the flow of remarks and music … those are all the conductor’s responsibility. Keeping the big picture in view, while still noticing every tree. In short, the things that make any leadership/coaching job difficult, and also wonderful.
How do you stay motivated throughout a demanding season and how do you motivate the artists before each performance?
The crowd keeps me motivated, I don’t need much more than that. I think that’s true of most of our musicians.
What is your most memorable moment with the Boston Pops?
Too many to mention, after 25 years and over 2000 concerts. My first 4th of July, when I walked out on stage and first saw what a half million people looks like? Sharing the stage with Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Mark Anthony, and U-2 at the Super Bowl in 2002? Taking the orchestra to Japan and really seeing how the Pops has influenced people around the world? So many great things!
What does the music of John Williams mean to you personally?
John’s music is some of the most inspired and most well-crafted composed for orchestra in today’s world. Without it, millions of people in every corner of the globe would never have heard truly great orchestral music. All of us musicians and performers owe John a tremendous debt, and there is truly no one more deserving of being celebrated!
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring artists?
Be versatile, but still be specialized enough to be very good at what you do. Very few of us on stage have seen our career unfold exactly as we would have planned it. And remember that it is a privilege to be able to make a living doing what you would do, well, if you didn’t have to make a living!
Many thanks to Maestro Lockhart for his insightful responses! We hope to have The Boston Pops on Tour at the Center soon.
THE BOSTON POPS ON TOUR
The Boston Pops on Tour honor the formidable legacy of John Williams, one of the greatest and most beloved living composers. Hear Williams’s most memorable scores from Star Wars, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark to Jurassic Park and Harry Potter.
Sunday, October 11, 2020 at 4 p.m.