Pops season promises to be fun, footloose affair

By Jed Gottlieb / Music

Also in the print version of the Herald

The Boston Pops’ 125-year tradition continues in May with a diverse lineup in-cluding appearances by Pops laureate conductor John Williams, bluegrass master Ricky Skaggs, ’80s rocker Kenny Loggins and former-Hub r&b maestro Ellis Hall.

As usual, conductor Keith Lockhart will lead the Boston institution through a range of styles from classical to country, gospel to Broadway starting opening night, May 11.

“It takes so long to put all this together sometimes you lose perspective on the season,” Lockhart told the Herald yesterday. “Then I’m handed the schedule and I go, ‘Oh, yeah, this is a really good season.’ ”

The veteran conductor noted the fun and increasing interaction the Pops is pushing: nearly every program has a sing-along night.

“We’re doing programs that remind everyone they don’t have to behave like this is Mahler,” he joked.

While there are plenty of performances of note, June 3 and 4 will be special nights when former Boston soul virtuoso Ellis Hall joins the Pops. Hall was a staple on the local scene before becoming the lead singer of Tower of Power in the ’80s and finally settling in Los Angeles.

“We had him come in last year with a different conductor doing a Ray Charles tribute and he just blew everyone away,” Lockhart said. “Everyone on staff said, ‘You’ve got to bring him back,’ so I’m excited to finally work with him.”

One genre missing from the Pops 2011 season is alternative rock; no adventurous Pops on the Edge shows are scheduled.

“This isn’t an idea I’ve given up with,” Lockhart said. “But it’s hard to find artists willing to interrupt their touring and recording schedules that would fit with a symphony orchestra and are willing to do the work it takes to perform with us.

“I’d love to have Arcade Fire, they would be tremendous, but nobody can get them interested in working with an orchestra yet. But then there are Josh Ritter and Ben Folds and Amanda Palmer, artists I’ve considered it a highlight to work with. So while it might not be on the schedule, when artists like this have the time we can always add other programs with them during the year.”

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