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Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular to return to the Esplanade July Fourth

‘It says a lot about Boston coming back to life,’ says conductor Keith Lockhart

Confetti fell on the audience attending the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular in 2019, the last of the Independence Day performances at the Hatch Shell before the pandemic-forced hiatus.Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

This Independence Day, the Boston Pops are coming back with a bang.

For the first time since 2019, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular concert will return to the Hatch Memorial Shell stage on the Charles River Esplanade, the orchestra announced Thursday. Under conductor Keith Lockhart, the Pops will perform from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. on July Fourth as a pyrotechnics show dazzles overhead.

“It’s an amazing place where we really get to be at the center of people’s celebration and understanding of that holiday, and we’ve missed that connection, and I hope the audience has as well,” said Lockhart, who will be conducting the concert for the 27th time. “We are really, really excited about what feels like a new start.”


The show — which will include performances by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums — will be welcoming in-person viewers and will be broadcast live on Bloomberg TV and Radio and on WHDH-TV Channel 7. The fireworks will overlap with the finale of the performance and go on for half an hour afterward.

Other program details and the names of guest performers will be announced “in the coming weeks,” said a Thursday press release. In the past, special guests have included Queen Latifah, Rita Moreno, and Nick Jonas. Romaine Bostick and Kailey Leinz of Bloomberg Television will host the performance. (Bloomberg is a major sponsor and media partner for the event.)

Keith Lockhart greeted the crowd during the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade in 2019. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

There will also be a “special moment,” the press release said, to honor the memory of the late David Mugar — the local philanthropist credited with adding fireworks and cannons to the concert beginning in 1974, and lifting the event to national prominence. Mugar died earlier this year.

“Along with Arthur Fiedler, he’s the person who basically set us on the course to have the independence celebration that everybody else imitates,” said Lockhart. “We certainly can’t let his passing go without paying tribute.”


Last July Fourth, the Pops performed the annual concert live at Tanglewood with special guests Jon Batiste and Mavis Staples, while the fireworks finale (closed to public viewing) took place on Boston Common. In 2020, the concert was canceled outright.

“Massachusetts is thrilled to be able to welcome people from across our state and nation back to the Charles River Esplanade to celebrate our nation’s independence,” said Governor Charlie Baker in the press release. “This celebration is one of the most iconic ways that the Commonwealth honors the Fourth of July, and we are glad that it is returning to its traditional format this year.”

Traditionally, Lockhart said, the concert spotlights a diverse range of performers and songs — Gershwin and Ellington melodies are performed alongside classics like “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “America the Beautiful.”

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular over the Charles River as seen from the roof of Boston University's Questrom School of Business in 2019. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

“We want this to feel like everybody’s concert,” he said.

In years past, more than half a million people came to the musical extravaganza annually. Lockhart said the thousands of onlookers are what imbues the Boston tradition with its unique magic.

“It’s the interaction with the crowd — and not the normal crowd that we see on a Saturday night in Symphony Hall,” said Lockhart. “It’s really great to have these landmarks as we come back out of the caves that we’ve been in for these last couple of years. I certainly think that this is one of the most spectacular of those, and I think it says a lot about Boston coming back to life.”


Dana Gerber can be reached at dana.gerber@globe.com