For its 125th, Pops offers party favors

By Jeremy Eichler
Globe Staff / May 5, 2010

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With an extra serving of razzmatazz, Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops opened the orchestra’s 125th season last night in Symphony Hall.

It was mostly a night of pops historical and unintentional: that is, the program itself was a tasting menu of music from the eras of Arthur Fiedler, John Williams, and Lockhart, but it was also punctuated by an embarrassing technical malfunction as balloons gathered at the ceiling of Symphony Hall kept popping at random, interrupting the music and the onstage narration like pistol shots.

Even Lockhart, a seasoned show-biz veteran, seemed momentarily put off, but mostly he and the musicians just ignored the extra battery of percussion as they cruised through a survey of durable favorites associated with each of the earlier eras. The Fiedler tribute included Gade’s “Jalousie’’ with shapely violin playing by Pops concertmaster Tamara Smirnova; Leroy Anderson’s classic “The Typewriter’’ beneath a rich montage of Fiedler shots; and a streamlined version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,’’ energetically dispatched by pianist Michael Chertock.

Trumpeter Doc Severinsen, 82, made a technically wobbly but big-hearted appearance during the Williams tribute. The brief set also included music from “Star Wars’’ and “E.T.’’ Williams himself will lead the Pops in five nights of his own film scores, May 11-15.

The portion of the program devoted to Lockhart’s tenure included a cameo from Broadway star Idina Menzel, who will return tonight and tomorrow with more to sing. Last night she delivered expansive renditions of “No Day But Today’’ from “Rent,’’ and “Defying Gravity’’ from “Wicked.’’ Lockhart also introduced the new “Beatles Rock Band Sing-Along,’’ with orchestrated versions played beneath footage from the music video game. The staff of the company that produced the game sang along raucously from the stage, and the crowd slowly, with some awkwardness, joined in. It was pretty painful.

There was “Happy Birthday’’ and a cake from celebrity chef Duff Goldman, who also zealously conducted “Stars and Stripes Forever,’’ channeling his inner Lockhart. The Pops season runs through June 20 and, it turns out, the orchestra will play a free concert on Boston Common on Sept. 26.

BOSTON POPS Keith Lockhart, conductor

At: Symphony Hall, last night