Keith Lockhart took over the reins as the conductor of the Boston Pops in 1995 and in the 19 years since, he’s developed a fondness for a few specific songs in the orchestra’s seemingly endless arsenal. Before the upcoming season kicks off on May 7, Lockhart broke down his top five Pops arrangements for Boston.com. Can you guess which ones he picked? Next
1. ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’
Lockhart commissioned an arrangement of “The 12 Days of Christmas” from Broadway composer and arranger David Chase about five years ago, and admits that some Pops fans “feel it isn’t Christmas if we don’t play this piece.” He added that this specific arrangement is the most successful piece he has commissionsed since he started working with the Pops. Next
2. ‘Sleigh Ride’
Another holiday favorite of Lockhart’s was arranged long before he joined the Pops, but it’s still a favorite — and of holiday Pops-goers. Leroy Andreson’s “Sleigh Ride” was first first recorded by Arthur Fiedler and the Pops in 1949 and it has been a staple ever since. “‘Sleigh Ride,’ which has become one of the most popular holiday tunes the world over, was written for the Pops,” Lockhart said. “And we still play it.” Next
3. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Queen may not be the first band whose music comes to mind when you imagine a Boston Pops playlist, but the Chris Walden-commissioned arrangement of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was so well-done it earned a spot on Lockhart’s top five. You can watch the 2011 premiere of the arrangement on Walden’s Facebook page.
Fun fact: “Bohemian Rhapsody” was one of the tracks on the first rock album Lockhart ever bought: Queen’s “Night at the Opera” (1975). Next
4. ‘42nd Street’
Don Sebesky’s arrangement of “42nd Street” ended up on the list because “It became such a show stopper,” Lockhart said. “It’s not just an arrangement of ‘42nd Street,’ it also includes in it bits and pieces of every other Broadway and New York song you can think of.” Lockhart credits arranger Sebesky as “one of the greatest jazz and Broadway arrangers still alive and working with us.” Next
5. ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’
Last but not least is the Pops’ iconic version of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” It wasn’t written explicity for the pops but they were the first orchestra to play it and they’ve been playing it ever since, according to Lockhart. “We play it most of the way through the year except at Christmas,” Lockhart added.
This season promises to be a whirlwind of entertainment. “I almost get whiplash looking at how many directions we’re going in,” Lockhart said of the Pops’ scheduled performances. The one that has us the most Boston.commers the most excited is what Lockhart described as the ”beautifully remastered version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with the voice of Judy Garland and others accompanied by a full live orchestra on stage.” You can catch Oz with Orchestra May 10-11.
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