For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, the Boston Pops won’t be performing on the Fourth of July. Credit for that goes to Hurricane Arthur, whose impending arrival turned the traditional July 3 dry run into the concert proper. But even with a program being adjusted on the fly right up until the end, Thursday night’s performance at the Hatch Shell was just as festive as if it had happened on the correct date.
With Boston Idol winner Jilly Martin serving as a Kacey Musgraves-flavored appetizer, the concert began in earnest with John Williams’s hopeful “Liberty Fanfare” (written, appropriately enough, for the rededication of the Statue Of Liberty on the last Pops-less Fourth). Governor Deval Patrick narrated the origins of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” (and the specific flag that inspired it) as the music underscoring him used the song as a base while twisting off into subtle variations.
Patrick was joined by the Boston Children’s Chorus, which also sang the inescapable “Let It Go.” It may have been the platonic ideal of how the “Frozen” song is meant to be performed: a chorus of children atop a shivering orchestral plunge. A selection of flapper-era favorites, meanwhile, suggested that the 1920s might be the ideal era for the Pops’ repertoire.
The Beach Boys (down to Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and a solidly effective group of hired hands) preferred the ’60s, trying to wash away the looming storm with sun-and-surf classics such as “Fun, Fun, Fun” and a deceptively dreamy “California Girls.” First, though, came Broadway star Megan Hilty, whose effortless voice seemed to reach all the way to the back of the Esplanade grounds, amplification or no amplification. She let loose her own vocal fireworks on “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” and the brassy and frustrated but achingly powerful “They Just Keep Moving The Line.”
That song proved prophetic, as the fireworks were spontaneously bumped up before the area was evacuated. The “1812 Overture” was dropped as a result, an announcement lustily booed by the audience. But howitzers, it seems, are no match for a hurricane. Even if it is tradition.