Boston Pops spring season returns in person for the first time in three years

The Boston Pops return this Thursday for their first in-person spring season in three years.

For a preview of upcoming highlights, Boston Pops bandleader Keith Lockhart has joined Boston Public Radio, where he also talked about the joys of returning to live, in-person performances. “We’re so excited to be back for folks in something that at least resembles a normal schedule,” Lockhart said.

Pandemic-imposed restrictions on performing in front of live audiences have been a challenge for Lockhart and the musicians he works with. “It was a tough race,” he said. “When you do something consistently for the last 40 years of your life, you start to define yourself by it, and all of a sudden it’s not there anymore.”

Lockhart said the pandemic has given her added appreciation for her work. “I will never take for granted the blessing of being able to play music for people again because, who thought it would be taken away?” he said. “The audience is part of the show, part of the shared emotional experience. We feel that they are there. And it’s a very different feeling, and frankly, not in a good way, when we play to have the cameras distributed virtually.

Still, Lockhart said he found silver linings in his virtual performances. By tracking ticket sales for concerts remotely, he found that two-thirds of people who bought tickets for the virtual Holiday Pops 2020 show were newcomers.

The Pops kick off the spring season with a tribute to composer Alan Menken, whose work spans on-screen and off-Broadway hits, from “The Little Mermaid” to “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“[Menken] we’re finding out it’s really cross-generational,” Lockhart said. “When I first said that, someone said, ‘Oh, it’s a kids’ show. And I said, “Well, you know, the kids who watched ‘Little Mermaid’ when it came out on the big screen, now they have their own 10-year-olds.”

The spring season also includes a 90th birthday tribute to Oscar-winning composer John Williams, which will feature some of his hit scores. The Pops will also celebrate jazz giants Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Christopher Jackson, who played the role of George Washington in “Hamilton”, will also bring his sensibility to the stage by performing some of his favorite songs.

“It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s so wonderful to find him. Like I said, I’ll wake up and be grateful every morning to go to a concert for people and touch them or reach out to them in some way.

Lockhart is the bandleader of the Boston Pops. The Boston Pops spring season runs from May 19 through June 11.