The Boston Pops opened its 128th season Wednesday night, bringing Hollywood and honky tonk to Symphony Hall.
While country music star Vince Gill was the featured artist with the Pops, it was Dr. David King who drew the night’s biggest applause. After running the Boston Marathon, King tended to patients who were injured in the Marathon bombings. The Pops let King conduct “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the night’s final encore, and his spirited direction of the orchestra drew the audience to its feet before the song was over.
The opening of the Pops’ season was a comforting ritual after the Marathon tragedy, and the concert for the most part aimed for normalcy, with the Pops and Gill simply doing jobs that are uplifting by nature.
It wasn’t until Gill played “Go Rest High on the Mountain,” offering it as a gesture of healing, that the tragedy was acknowledged. That subtle touch and King’s hero’s welcome handled the situation just right.
The Pops, which will be celebrating the music of Hollywood throughout its season, opened the concert with what conductor Keith Lockhart called a “Cook’s tour” of the concerts to come.
After a rousing rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood” accompanied by a montage of clips from famous films, Lockhart led the Pops into the sweeping title theme from “Gone With the Wind.” Lockhart gave a nod to his predecessor, John Williams, as the Pops played Williams’s “Flying Theme” from “E.T.”
“Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” was the only odd fit, not really taking advantage of the orchestra’s depth and textures as well as the other selections did. The first half of the program ended with classical selections used in Disney’s two “Fantasia” films, completing the link between symphonic music and cinema.
Gill and his band played eight songs for the concert’s second half. The orchestral accompaniment bolstered Gill’s ballads, with the collaboration hitting a soulful peak on “If You Ever Have Forever in Mind.” Gill let loose twice without the Pops, sounding especially hell-raising on “One More Last Chance.”