A stellar Opening Night at Pops

Posted on May 10, 2013 by

Opening Night at Pops is a sure sign of spring in Boston, an evening of world-class music, conviviality and celebrations of friendship and life.

It’s been so for 128 years and was so again on Wednesday night — a fitting symbol of Boston’s strength, resilience and community spirit despite the tragic events that took place a few blocks away on April 15.

My grandson Jack joined me at Opening Night this year. He’s nine, a great kid, who’s interested in country music and the framed Night at Pops poster his parents have hung in their living room.

I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. He took in the glories of Symphony Hall, checking out the gold gilt and statuary in the upper balconies as I pointed them out.  I told him that Symphony Hall is one of the world’s most perfect concert halls acoustically and explained he would “get it” once the orchestra began playing.

We’d “prepped” for the concert, listening to Pops CDs in the car on our ride in. Jack sat with me at our table seat in row M and marveled at the people walking by. “It’s a great place to people watch,” I told him. And he agreed.

Our amiable usher told us she plays flute and studies music at Tufts and is looking forward to hearing all the concerts this year, a perk when you work that gig.

Conductor Keith Lockhart bounded on-stage, leading the Pops in its spirited opener, “Hooray for Hollywood,” a stellar start to Lights! Camera! Action! – this season’s theme.

The lively rendition featured a well-edited video backdrop with quick shots from dozens of Hollywood classics from Gone With the Wind and The Little Tramp to contemporary fare like Argo and Shrek.

Other Hollywood music followed including well-orchestrated versions of the title theme from Gone with the Wind, The Days of Wine and Roses and “The Flying Theme”  from E.T. and “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid, which Jack immediately recognized.

There were two tunes from Disney’s “Fantasia,” which the Pops will feature in its complete version in concerts later this season.

The second act featured country-super star Vince Gill, an amiable guy who marveled at the thrill he felt when he heard his tunes played by the venerable Boston Pops.

Gill’s wife, Amy Grant, was a classmate of Lockhart’s at Furman University in South Carolina. “I bet Keith wished I’d brought Amy along,” quipped Gill. Lockhart gamely gave a thumbs-up in agreement.

In tribute to the heroes who helped on Marathon Monday, the Pops invited a Mass General Hospital surgeon to conduct its signature finale “Stars and Stripes Forever.” This doc — a music major in college — had run the marathon, then immediately went to work helping to save lives.

All in all, it was a perfect way to end a stellar Opening Night at Pops — one that Jack and I will never forget.

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