After last year’s unprecedented spring season — which is to say, none — the Boston Pops buck tradition again this year by offering an entirely virtual spring program for the first time. The season follows the Pops’ recent one-off Christmas and Valentine’s Day streams and will feature four new concerts alongside two performances from the Pops archives.
The concerts will be released at bso.org/now at noon every Thursday from May 6 through June 10 and be available for 30 days, with three payment tiers: $9 for seven days’ access, $25 for 30 days, or a season pass for $100.
According to conductor Keith Lockhart, “The Boston Pops Celebrates Mother’s Day: Honoring Women” (available May 6) “turned into an opportunity to really celebrate women and women’s contributions, as opposed to, you know, playing every piece we have in the library that has the word ‘mother’ or ‘lady’ in it.” In addition to spotlighting female composers like Carole King and Joan Tower, the concert features Bach’s Double Concerto performed by Pops violinist Ala Jojatu and her 16-year-old daughter, Maria.
“A Tribute to John Williams” debuting on May 20 takes advantage both of the television-like nature of streaming and of interviews the laureate conductor did for previous concerts. “We flew out to him and talked about his life, his career, his working methods, and then we interspersed them with music that was pertinent to what he was talking about,” says Lockhart. “He talks about how he came up with the ‘Jaws’ theme, for instance, and we play the ‘Jaws’ theme. This is a perfect concert to revive, because so much of it was already on video. In a way, it was already a TV show.”
“An Evening with Chris Thile and the Stars of Tomorrow” (June 3) showcases both Nickel Creek/Punch Brothers mandolinist Thile and the four winners of the 11th annual Fidelity Investments Young Artists Competition: violinist Ella Kim of Weston, trumpeter Cameron Shave of Bridgewater, vocalist Lianna Paglia of Natick, and pianist Katherine Liu of Wellesley. Lockhart suggests that it’s the most urgently needed of the season’s offerings. “It’s been such a weirdly disconcerting, disconnecting time for performing artists, even those of us who’ve been doing it for years and years,” he says. “I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a 17-year-old performer and have all this need to communicate bottled up inside you and just be closed.”
That’s a theme that quietly carries over to “The Roots of Jazz: American Voices” (June 10). “We’ve never told the [musical] story of what happened post-Civil War South,” Lockhart says, “with the ragtime pianists, a new art form growing out of the remnants of brass bands in New Orleans, and the blues growing out of work songs from the slaves in the South and migrating up north, ending up in St. Louis, in Chicago, [in] New York in the ’20s.” There will also be belated vindication for “The Charleston” composer James P. Johnson, who appealed in vain for Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler to perform part of his “Harlem Symphony” in the 1940s. Lockhart’s Pops will perform the composition at last.
The encore performances of the season include February’s “Boston Pops in Love” (May 13) and Ella Fitzgerald’s July 1976 “Evening at Pops” appearance (May 27). Laughing at the notion that repeating a Fitzgerald performance needs any justification, Lockhart says, “It’s one of the highlight concerts, I think, of Fiedler’s entire period of involvement.”
And while Lockhart remains interested in the possibilities and reach of streaming, he’s eager to bring the Pops in front of live audiences again as soon as public-health guidelines allow. “You know how eventually, when you used to leave your VCR on pause too long, it would just stop?,” he says with a chuckle. “The pause is getting a little old.”
At www.bso.org/NOW, May 6 through June 10.
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc