CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS: IN THE VAULT WITH KEITH LOCKHART
Interview with Boston Pops Maestro and Master Music Monarch, Keith Lockhart
I N T E R V I E W by B R I A N S E R P O N E
Our In the Vault segment of The Music Room, we feature Cape Cod residents — genuine pillars of our community; artists, musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs and philanthropists alike — who have persevered to achieve national or international successes. Recently, we had a chance to get intimate with a super-legendary contributor to our music culture on a global scale as well as right here at home. He’s spearheaded the annual Pops by the Sea, the Cape’s single largest cultural event and the most important fundraising event each year for the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. For over thirty years now Cape Codders have welcomed one of the nation’s finest and best-loved musical ensembles to the Hyannis Village Green – the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra lead by the one and only Keith Lockhart.
He’s expanded the Pops and musical conducting into uncharted 21st century territory having had more than 250 guest artists with whom he has collaborated — a virtual “who’s who” of performers and pop culture icons.
Lockhart's conducting career began as the associate conductor of both the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops orchestras, as well as music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He’s conducted nearly 2,000 Boston Pops concerts, most of which have taken place during the orchestra’s spring and holiday seasons in Boston’s historic Symphony Hall.
Lockhart has also led annual Boston Pops appearances at Tanglewood, 43 national tours to more than 150 cities in 38 states, and four international tours to Japan and Korea. He and the Pops have made 79 television shows for the long-running television show Evening At Pops and participated in such high-profile sporting events as Super Bowl XXXVI, the 2008 NBA finals, the 2013 Boston Red Sox Ring Ceremony, the Red Sox Opening Day game at Fenway Park in 2009, and Game 2 of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. The annual July 4th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular draws a live audience of over half a million to the Charles River Esplanade and millions more who view it on television. His credentials continue to go on and on and up into the stratosphere.
On September 2, 2017, Lockhart and the Boston Pops performed Pete Townshend’s Quadrophenia with Pete Townshend, Billy Idol, and acclaimed tenor Alfie Boe. Quadrophenia is the only Who album entirely composed by Townshend. For those who don't know, the story follows a young mod named Jimmy and his search for self-worth and importance. It’s set in London and Brighton in the mid 1960's.
So many questions to ask Keith! However, taking into consideration that this is only our second publication – and Rolling Stone Magazine would be lucky to get an interview with Keith Lockhart – we went easy on him. You’ll get a sense of a humble, down-to-earth gentleman who is family oriented yet at the same time a legitimate rock-star! We are privileged and thankful to have had this opportunity to interview such an incredibly talented artist who’s impact on music cannot be undermined.
B. – Out of all the places in the world, what is it about Cape Cod that drew you to reside here? What is it that is most special about the Cape to you?
KL – My wife and I love the beauty and serenity of the Cape... especially in the off season, the occasional severity of the weather, the changing of seasons. It feels real. It also lies in close proximity to Boston, making it possible for us to continue in our careers and still take advantage of all the Cape has to offer.
B. – You began studying piano at the age of seven. At what age did you realize that you’d be on this life path?
KL. – My tongue-in-cheek answer to this is that I'm still not sure, but at this point my options are narrowing! in my early 20’s that music had to be at the center of my life, and it was then that I figured out that what I was best at was pulling together others to create great musical moments that none of us were individually capable of producing. Conducting is like coaching and conducting the Boston Pops and other great orchestras is like coaching in the NFL… you work with the most talented people and try to create something that's greater than the sum of its parts.
B. – How would you describe a day in the life of conducting the Boston Pops in a single sentence.
KL. – The best part of my life as a conductor is that no day is predictable… every day has its own challenges, its own repertoire, and its own discoveries.
B. – In my personal opinion, Led Zeppelin is one of the most creative and innovative bands to have ever played. They are (again in my opinion) the greatest LIVE band of that era and to-date – boasting an energy, a certain magic that could never again be duplicated. They came together at exactly the right time and had the freedom then to explore so many different angles and directions in the musical landscape, at that time. What was the genesis for you personally – that is, what was the starting point when you decided to take on Kashmir with the Pops beyond the obvious genius of Jimmy Page’s guitar mastery and his success in building an orchestral backbone to the song by multitracking guitars? Kashmir being one of Zeppelin’s greatest works.
KL. – Led Zeppelin's music has a sophistication… a combination of amazing improvisation and stunning musical concepts that none of the other great rock bands' music can reach. That makes it really ripe for reinterpretation in the orchestral format. Kashmir is a natural… it's a song everyone knows but has such depth and musical integrity. And it rocks....
B. – Do you have any plans to actually collaborate with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin in the future? If so, what would be the next Led Zeppelin song you would choose?
KL. – I would love to appear with Led Zeppelin! Over my time at the Pops, we've worked with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Bono, Tom Schultz of Boston, and many others. But Zeppelin would be the pinnacle. Besides Kashmir, we've also done Going to California (which is a personal favorite of mine) and (of course) Stairway to Heaven. Next song? When the Levee Breaks… Immigrant Song… Misty Mountain Hop? Too many to name.
B. – Through Serpone Productions, myself and my partner John Ippolito are working to ignite a resurgence in the music and arts scene on Cape Cod in promoting and showcasing aspiring, enthusiastic, progressive and pioneering talent, where there has long been a void with few places to highlight these artists. Would you endorse this endeavor we are so passionately pursuing?
KL. – You guys are great to take this challenge on. One of the problems on the Cape is a lack of great venues in which to hear great performers, which is why community events like Pops By The Sea are so important. What a great place to make music!
B. – Having worked with so many icons in the music industry, and as we approach the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I have to ask what it was like to collaborate with Pete Townshend on Quadrophenia? Townshend, who actually performed with “The Who” at 5AM on Sunday August 17th, 1969 – the 3rd and last day of the most famous concert of all time.
KL. – Pete was great… we did the entirety of Quadrophenia in a really amazingly orchestrated version at Tanglewood a couple of years back. He couldn't have been kinder or more giving. An amazing UK singer named Alfie Boe did most of the lead vocals, but Pete chimed in, and they brought Billy Idol along for good measure.
B. – You’ve conducted nearly two thousand Boston Pops concerts among so many others outside the Pops. Are there any specific events that stand out in your mind where you felt it was truly magical – as if you’ve reached a moment that seemed divine, celestial or ethereal?
KL. – Super Bowl in New Orleans in 2002… we played the preshow with Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney, Mary J. Blige, and others. I went from the Patriots victory party that night back to Salt Lake City to perform in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics with my other band at the time, the Utah Symphony. Four days after New Orleans, I was on the field with Sting, John Williams, Yo Yo Ma, Desmond Tutu, and Lech Walesa. It was an amazing week to be alive!
B. – You’ve reached a level of success in the music industry that most don’t achieve in a number of lifetimes. There is so much untapped talent here on Cape Cod. What advice would you give to the super-ambitious artist who seeks to achieve a similar level of success? In other words, beyond the obvious perseverance and determination required, what, if any secrets could you reveal to offer more confidence to musicians with a long vision to succeed on a the “big stage”?
KL. – Be prepared to do anything and be excellent at everything you attempt. Music performance is an incredibly competitive industry, and more so with every passing year. There is still room for you if you are really good, really flexible, and really passionate about your need to perform.
It gives us great pleasure to deliver this one-of-a-kind interview with one of the great musical innovators of this generation.
Keith Lockhart has also led eight albums on the RCA Victor label and has earned Grammy nominations. Recent releases on Boston Pops Recordings include The Red Sox Album, A Boston Pops Christmas – Live from Symphony Hall, and The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, which was a Boston Pops commission premiered in 2010 during the orchestra’s 125th season. Released at the beginning of the 2017 Pops season, Lights, Camera… Music! Six Decades of John Williams features Keith Lockhart leading the Boston Pops in a collection of Williams compositions from the 1960s onward, some of which can be considered rarities.