This year marks 100 years since the birth of Leonard Bernstein, the famed composer who scored “West Side Story” as well as a slew of other Broadway hits that turned him into a musical theater icon. In a letter written in 1988 to Bernstein, the legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis wrote, “You are one of America’s true geniuses along with Monk, Gillespie, Mingus and Parker.”
This spring season, the Boston Pops will honor Bernstein with special concerts, archival exhibits and plenty of awesome guests. Under the tutelage of conductor Serge Koussevitzky, Bernstein was one of the first class members of the Tanglewood Music Center and would go on to lead the music programs every summer thereafter for the next 11 years. He so greatly admired his mentor at the Center that he wore a pair of Koussevitzky’s cufflinks and kissed them before performing every concert.
“Speaking as a young musician growing up in the latter part of the 20th century, it was impossible to not feel Lenny’s voice,” Pops conductor Keith Lockhart tells Metro. “We saw him on TV, we saw him at young people’s concerts, we heard his interpretations of both the classics and more contemporary classical music, and on top of that, we saw an American boy from Lawrence, Massachusetts, actually be a conductor on the world stage.”
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Part of the Pop’s tribute will include a concert performance of “West Side Story” on June 15 and 16, and a semi-staged production of “On the Town” on May 31 and June 1.
The Boston Pops will open on May 9 with singer Andy Grammar, who recently released a new album. The Pop’s lineup features many drama-scene favorites, including Alfie Boe, an opera singer and former Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” who will perform on May 15 and 16, and Leslie Odom Jr. from the Broadway megahit “Hamilton” on June 12 through 14.
Melissa Doolittle, who is a “young Tina Turner” according to American Idol judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, will lead the Pop’s 26th annual Gospel Night on June 2.
Lockhart hopes that this season will bring in an audience “that goes from people in their 70s down to little 5-year -old girls who still want to be Ariel.”
“It’s easy to take somebody who only appeals to 18 to 22-year-olds, and others will go, ‘Ugh, why do they listen to that?’” Lockhart says. “It’s hard to find music that really brings people together across generations.”
If you go:
Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, bostonpops.org