With our Thanksgiving turkeys barely in the oven, Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart thinks that it’s far too early to talk about Christmas. Given he will end the year leading the three-week Holiday Pops concert series, he is obliged to prepare, and think about certain aspects of it quite early.
“I am a big believer in banishing the holiday talk to after Thanksgiving,” Lockhart says, speaking from Symphony Hall just days before flying off to London to take up “his other podium,” as he calls it, conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra. “I don’t like stretching it out over months. It makes it less special.”
Each Holiday Pops season balances old favorites with new elements. This year, there is a new opening “Angel Medley” combining “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels From the Realm of Glory”; and a new “Home Medley” featuring “Home for the Holidays,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “A Place Called Home.” The program includes Respighi’s “The Adoration of the Magi,” performed with a magnificent backdrop of astronomer and photographer Jose Francisco’s images of the Northern Lights.
There are so many goodies in the holiday music canon, Lockhart has a hard time listing favorites: “That’s like picking among your children,” he says. “Of the classics, ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ is a favorite of mine, and of the modern ones, ‘The Christmas Song’ by the great Mel Torme. I’d have to say ‘Sleigh Ride,’ too, because it was written for the Pops in 1952,” he says of Leroy Anderson’s modern standard.
“I always add new things,” Lockhart explains. “It’s a combination of the familiar but without being an utter repetition. We want people to be a little surprised and say, ‘Oh, I love that one,’ when we play something they aren’t expecting.”
The Tanglewood Festival Chorus performs with the orchestra and Broadway star Megan Hilty is the special guest for the 33rd annual “A Company Christmas at Pops,” the orchestra’s fundraiser and gala on Dec. 7. But arguably the most special guest is the big guy himself: Santa Claus, who appears at each concert throughout the season, including seven kids’ matinees.
“I have a special relationship with the big guy with the white beard and red suit,” says Lockhart. “We’re Santa’s favorite orchestra — that’s what he tells me. I am very glad to be upstaged by Santa. I get plenty of spotlight as it is, and it also helps with my naughty or nice karma.”
If you go:
Nov. 30-Dec. 24
301 Mass. Ave.
Tickets start at $39, bso.org
For the rest of the best entertainment in Boston during the holidays, visit our Winter Arts Guide.