The annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is getting an infusion of punk and soul this year.
Joining Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and returning host, Emmy award-winning actor, and Lowell native Michael Chiklis, at the DCR Hatch Shell for the Fourth of July celebration will be musical guests Jennifer Hudson and Dropkick Murphys.
The Academy- and Grammy award-winning vocalist and the beloved local Irish punk rockers were excited to be taking part in the grand tradition when they checked in by e-mail from New York and Europe, respectively.
Hudson has never seen the show before but says, “I have heard such amazing things about it, so I am very excited that my first time seeing it will also be my first time participating as a performer.”
Although she says she likes to have a “good old-fashioned barbecue’’ with family on the Fourth, it was a “very easy decision” to say yes to the offer.
The singer-actress has a lot of irons in the fire now. She recently signed on for a multi-episode arc for the second season of the Broadway-set NBC drama “Smash,” she is set to shoot two films this summer, and she will launch her own fashion line — the Jennifer Hudson Collection for QVC — in September.
“It is an exciting new chapter for me to be designing,” she says of the line which consists of “key pieces that every woman should have in her wardrobe from fun leggings to a great dress you can dress up or dress down.”
For Dropkick Murphys performing with the Pops at the Hatch Shell adds another local tradition to the band’s resume.
“It is such an institution in Boston,” says bassist-singer Ken Casey. “It’s been interesting to be in Europe and get all the excited texts and calls from friends and family.”
Casey is a longtime fan of the orchestra. He attended the Fourth of July show as a child and brings his own kids to see the Pops every Christmas at Symphony Hall, which turns out to hold a special place in Dropick Murphys lore.
“Something many people don’t know, DKM was actually created at Symphony Hall,” says Casey. “I was a bartender there and one of my fellow bartenders challenged me to form a band on three weeks notice and open for his band. I hadn’t even played an instrument before but I can’t resist a good bet. The rest is history.”
It may seem like an odd fit to some to pair DKM with the Pops, but Casey says when the group recently played acoustically with the orchestra at a tribute to Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, they were shocked by how well they meshed. “It was so much fun and it was that experience that led them to ask us to join them on the Esplanade on the Fourth.’’
Hudson was mum on what she might be performing, but we’re guessing her showstopping “Dreamgirls” number, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” and tracks from her latest album, “I Remember Me,” could make the cut. Casey thinks it’s likely that he and the boys will play “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” and “Tessie,” since those are the tunes they learned for the Red Sox event, and they will be coming straight off the plane from a 33-day European tour.
Those Boston-centric songs seem fitting for the merger and it may not be the only opportunity for this meeting of the musical minds. Casey says they have been discussing doing a full concert with the Pops in December, “which will be nice since we have a new album coming out in the beginning of January. We’ll have lots of new songs to collaborate on with the Pops.”
The group is usually on tour in Europe on the Fourth; Casey says their normal celebration is to “rope off an area, get our hands on some fireworks, and do what Americans do best: annoy people.”
Following the show on the Esplanade, the band will head back into the studio to finish work on a new album and will hit the road in September for a string of a tour dates that includes a stop at the Bank of America Pavilion on Sept. 21.