date published: July 2, 2007

5 questions with...

Keith LockhartKeith Lockhart
by Josh B. Wardrop

For the 13th straight year, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart will spend Independence Day on the Charles River Esplanade, leading the Pops in its famed, nationally-televised July 4th musical spectacular, joined this year by rocker John Mellencamp and the winner of the orchestra’s “American Idol”-esque POPSearch competition.

Q: What makes the Fourth of July spectacular so special for you?
It transcends the “concert” experience. We have a half-million people sitting there watching us, live. In one day, we play for more people than most orchestras do in a year. It’s a singular honor, and a big responsibility.

Q: John Mellencamp is joining you this year. Will he get to actually rehearse with the Pops?
We’ve wanted John for years—he represents American music and the nation’s heartland so wonderfully. And we will rehearse with him for the first time on July 3!

Q: Do the cannons going off during the 1812 Overture still make you flinch?
I’m pretty used to it now, and our people know exactly how to choreograph it. However, we once did a show elsewhere, and the set-up folks at the venue aimed the cannons toward the stage. You saw a lot of musicians hitting the deck.

Q: Are the Pops embracing modern collaborations and programming more than ever?
I really think we’re just continuing what Arthur Fiedler did. He mixed it up—from Wagner to The Beatles to disco. We look at it as a long-term fertilizing of our audience. The 20-something who sees us play with My Morning Jacket might bring his kids back to the Pops 20 years from now.

Q: If you didn’t have this gig, how would you spend July 4th in Boston?
Probably picnicking on a beach somewhere, then I’d try to wrangle someone’s roof deck and watch the Pops. After all, I’ve never actually seen the show!