This year marks the centennial not only of Fenway Park but also of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House as a museum. Saturday at Symphony Hall, Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops paid tribute to the author of “Little Women” in a concert featuring Maureen McGovern, who played Marmee in the original cast of the 2005 Broadway musical “Little Women.”
The first half of the evening was called “The Heart of New England,” and it began with the Pops performing John Williams’s stirring “Hymn to New England” against a backdrop of photographs taken by Art Donahue for the “Main Streets & Back Roads” segment of WCVB-TV’s “Chronicle”: spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and the odd white church steeple poking through autumn foliage.
Then the program went back to 1882 and what Lockhart referred to as “the O.J. Simpson trial of its time,” in which Lizzie Borden was charged with killing her mother and father. He noted that there’s “a rather gruesome song” about the murders (the Chad Mitchell Trio’s “Lizzie Borden”), but what the Pops served up instead was a pair of selections from Morton Gould’s score for Agnes de Mille’s 1948 ballet “Fall River Legend.” The “Elegy” was full of spooky woodwinds; the “Cotillion” sounded like a New England version of the “Hoedown” from Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo.”
Next, Lockhart turned to the man he called “the original cranky New England composer.” That would be Charles Ives, and though Ives’s knotty, idiosyncratic oeuvre is not exactly standard Pops fare, the third movement of his “Concord” Piano Sonata is named “The Alcotts” and was inspired by Louisa May and her father, Bronson. The Pops played it in an orchestral transcription by Henry Brant that preserved the parlor-piano ambience and the references to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Then McGovern sang “America the Beautiful” (“And crown thy good with brother- and sisterhood”), “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty” (both from “Little Women”), and “Ordinary Miracles.” She was in good voice — you would hardly have guessed that it’s been 40 years since her breakout hit, “The Morning After.”
After intermission came “Visions of America: A Photo Symphony,” a 45-minute multimedia work that combines powerful images from Joseph Sohm’s book “Visions of America: Photographing Democracy” with music by Roger Kellaway, a Waban-born New England Conservatory graduate, songs by the Oscar-winning team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and narration by Clint Eastwood. Kellaway was a tiger at the piano, and torrential in his “States of Union — 50 State Rag” number. The best of the songs, “To the Eyes of a Star,” was sung by Maureen McMullan, a Berklee College of Music graduate.
For encores, there was a singalong medley of “America,” “America the Beautiful,” “Yankee Doodle,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and “God Bless America,” and then “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Louisa May Alcott died in 1888, eight years before Sousa wrote his immortal march. Had she lived to hear it, she too might have been dancing in the aisle.