The Pops are running the show on the Fourth

Keith Lockhart will conduct his 23rd Fourth concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Keith Lockhart will conduct his 23rd Fourth concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.

With the Boston Pops taking over production of this year’s Fourth of July celebration from longtime sponsor David Mugar, there were sure to be changes. But the biggest one might be best viewed from your living room, not the Esplanade.

Bloomberg Television will broadcast the entire three-hour show across multiple platforms, thanks to a new media partnership with the business news company. Viewers will be able to watch the concert on Bloomberg TV or a live stream on as well as Bloomberg’s mobile and tablet apps.

That’s a change from past years when the show was sometimes truncated for broadcast, prompting viewers from across the country to complain about how the television version of the performance wasn’t patriotic enough, said Kim Noltemy, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s chief operating and communications officer.


The Pops are determined to change that.

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“They’ll be able to hear the whole ‘1812 Overture,’ ” said Keith Lockhart, the Pops conductor.

Opening with the traditional fighter jet military flyover and the “Star Spangled Banner,” the program will conclude with a 20-minute fireworks show, accompanied by the Pops. The US Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus will also make an appearance, adding a layer of pomp and ceremony to the affair.

Producing its own show has given the Pops the freedom to match artists with music more suited to full orchestral arrangements. Noltemy said that while working with television networks in the past was a great opportunity, sometimes the Pops were encouraged to select artists with an eye toward TV national ratings.

“We’re trying to make the performance a little more intuitive, so people will go, ‘That makes sense why they chose that artist or song,’ ” Noltemy said.


This year’s concert will feature four headliners: pop star Andy Grammer, folk rocker Melissa Etheridge, singer and “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., and a late addition announced Friday, Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell.

The Pops will debut a new song composed for the occasion by Alan Menken — the man behind the Disney film scores for “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” — and lyricist Jack Feldman. The program will also celebrate former Pops conductor John Williams, with selections from the recent Pops album “Lights, Camera . . . Music! Six Decades of John Williams.”

Lockhart, who will be conducting his 23rd Fourth of July concert Tuesday, said this year’s selection of headliners is the broadest mix in some time. While the program can’t please everyone, he said he hopes this year’s focus on tradition will prove popular with the audience.

“Attendees can expect a really patriotic celebration that is also a family concert,” he said. “Most of all, we just want to throw a really great birthday celebration. We’re really trying to give the concert back to the people.”

That’s no easy feat, given how much change the Pops have been through in the last year. Mugar retired last spring after producing all 43 previous shows, but when he couldn’t find a sponsor last year he wound up footing the $2 million bill himself.


The Pops began a partnership with the Boston businessman and philanthropist in 1974, after he had asked the orchestra to play Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” during an Esplanade concert, while he provided the fireworks, howitzer cannons, and church bells. The celebration now draws an estimated 500,000 people to the banks of the Charles River every year.

‘We just want to throw a really great birthday celebration. We’re really trying to give the concert back to the people.’

Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops conductor 

In March, the Pops announced Boston investment firm Eaton Vance would be the sponsor for the fireworks show for the next three years.

Gates will open at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The concert starts at 8 p.m., ending with fireworks at 10:30 p.m. Smartphone users will be able to view the schedule and snap photos with custom event frames using the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular app. Radio listeners can tune in on 1200 AM or 94.5 FM HD2, on the subscription-based iHeartRadio, or Sirius XM satellite channel 119.

For those who don’t mind missing the fireworks, the Monday night rehearsal is open to the public and includes the headliners. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the event; rehearsal will begin at 8 p.m.

As for the Pops conductor, these last few days before the show are about pulling everything together as perfectly as he can. Lockhart said he has rehearsals scheduled through the weekend before the headliners trickle in on Monday.

“It’s going to be a really great show,” he said. “I hope a million people come down to the Esplanade to check it out.”

Bethany Ao can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethanyao.