The Ferguson Center astounds with the Boston Pops

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Here at CNU, we are fortunate to have the amazing Ferguson Center of the Arts offering spectacular performances every season. This season is no exception, and one of the most recent performances held was definitely one of the best. The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with Ann Hampton Callaway and Keith Lockhart, performing the Streisand Songbook, was a night filled with great music and entertainment, leaving the audience anything but disappointed.

The Boston Pops, stemming from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was founded in 1885 and is known for its classical and pop musical performances. The orchestra is most known for its performances on the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. Touring throughout the country with more than 250 performances every year, the Boston Pops is nothing if not extraordinary with its strength of musical talent. In front of every good orchestra, stands the conductor, enthusiastically guiding the musicians throughout the performance. For the Boston Pops, their conductor is the incomparable Lockhart, who describes his job as “making sure that there aren’t any mishaps.”

Born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Lockhart has been fascinated with music from a very early age, beginning piano lessons at seven years old. He earned degrees from Furman University and Carnegie Mellon University, as well as honorary doctorates from several other American universities. After working as an associate conductor for orchestras in the midwest, Lockhart became the 20th conductor for the Boston Pops in 1995. With his 18-year tenure of the Boston Pops, he has conducted more than 1,500 concerts and 33 national tours. In August 2010, Lockhart’s career as a conductor expanded even further when he was named seventh principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, which plays concerts regularly on BBC television and radio channels.

Lockhart has had many shows throughout his life, but his very first Fourth of July extravaganza in Washington, D.C. with the Boston Pops, is one of his favorite experiences. Not far behind is when he conducted the Boston Pops at the pre-game show of Super Bowl XXXVI  in New Orleans, marking the first time an orchestra was featured in performance during a Super Bowl. For Lockhart, the best part of what he does is being able to reach and connect with audiences everywhere, from “truck drivers to Ph.Ds.” With the hope of reaching everyone with music, Lockhart doesn’t really have a favorite genre of music, but he does have a special place in his heart for classical music. Lockhart’s greatest inspiration is musical legend Leonard Bernstein, as Bernstein was able to do what every musician aims to do, communicate with audiences through music. The fame that Lockhart has enjoyed for almost two decades has been a shocking, humbling and sometimes overwhelming experience for him; an experience that he wouldn’t change for anything.

This year’s tour for the Boston Pops and Lockhart featured jazz singer Ann Hampton Callaway singing the songs of  the legendary Barbra Streisand.  Callaway is a singer and songwriter, with several of her songs having been recorded by Streisand herself. Callaway has gone on many tours and has made many solo appearances throughout her career, however she is also known for her duet work with sister Liz. Most people might know Callaway’s voice from the theme song on the 90s sitcom, “The Nanny.” This particular tour for Callaway and the Boston Pops came from an idea Callaway had, in doing a tour honoring Streisand and her decades of musical contributions.  When Lockhart and the orchestra were approached by Callaway for this, they thought it’d be a great idea, seeing as how they could honor Marvin Hamlisch, who happened to be great friends with Barbra Streisand. For this tour, everything seemed to just fall into place.

The night began with Lockhart leading the Boston Pops through many classics, including the overtures to “Gypsy” and “A Chorus Line,” the title song from “Hello Dolly!” and “Through the Eyes of Love” from “Ice Castles.” While wanting to perform the classics, Lockhart also wanted to pay tribute to the late Hamlisch, who is responsible for so many of the songs we hear today, and who passed away before his time in August 2012. Ending the first half of the concert with Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York,” Lockhart and the orchestra gave an extraordinary performance, leaving the audience stunned, smiling and speechless.

After the 15-minute intermission ended, Callaway made her grand entrance onto the stage. While she was giving a musical performance and honoring a legend, she was wearing too much makeup, too much jewelry and her dress was anything but flattering. But maybe that’s just the girl in me. The Barbra Streisand lover in me enjoyed every moment of Ann’s voice covering the legendary songs. “Evergreen,” “The Way We Were” and “A Piece of Sky,” from the film “Yentl” made famous by Streisand, were just a number of tunes that touched my heart by Callaway’s crooning voice. I was hesitant to hear her sing these songs, as very few can even come close to Streisand’s caliber. However, Callaway soon proved me wrong. With Lockhart leading the orchestra behind her, Callaway belted these songs like only Streisand can and stunned the audience with her vocal ability. Some of her gestures seemed to be a bit overdone and over dramatic, but she can have a pass since this is the divine Streisand we are honoring.

The performances of the evening seemed to go off without a hitch, which was surprising as this was the opening night of the tour and they had only been able to rehearse in the space two hours prior. Having spent most of my life exposed to the Boston Pops, I was excited to see them perform live, and I was not disappointed. The night was filled with wonderful music and memorable performances by all. Ending a show with three standing ovations, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with Ann Hampton Callaway and Keith Lockhart was a joyful experience I won’t forget.