As reliable a New England winter tradition as sightseeing along lights-laden suburban streets or hauling home a Fraser fir, this year’s Holiday Pops season will offer fans a series of warmly familiar festivities, from Symphony Hall sing-alongs to performances of a John Williams score alongside a screening of one of his most beloved films.
This is by design, says conductor Keith Lockhart, discussing the Boston Pops’ 2018 holiday season by phone. “We’ve skewed a little toward the traditional side of things,” he explains. “Especially in a world as fractious as this one currently is, people really look forward to taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Well, at least that hasn’t changed.’”
The season kicks off Wednesday with the orchestra’s holiday gala “A Company Christmas at Pops” — featuring Broadway star Laura Osnes — and will span more than 40 concerts by the Pops this month. Highlights include eight kids’ matinee programs featuring the Boston Symphony Childrens’ Choir (spaced throughout December), three orchestra-accompanied screenings of “Home Alone,” which Williams scored (Dec. 29-30), and — in a particular starry tree-topper — a New Year’s Eve celebration with “Family Guy” funnyman Seth MacFarlane, who previously showcased his very sincere vocal chops while opening the Pops’ 2016 season.
“My hope is that everybody leaves a concert going, ‘Well, you must have done that just for me,’” explains Lockhart, who — now in his 24th year as conductor — says he’s been at the head of the Pops holiday season long enough to factor into some families’ Christmas traditions himself.
“I have people come up and tell me they came as kids in my first years in town and are now bringing their kids back,” he adds, laughing. “That always makes me feel both honored and old.”
The conductor is particularly excited about an arrangement of “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” from Jessel’s “Chauve Souris,” augmented by a new animated short that Boston-based FableVision created specifically for the Pops.
“It’s about what takes place under the Christmas tree when the children are asleep,” says Lockhart. “It’s whimsical and fun, definitely oriented toward kids, but it’ll work across age ranges.”
Consistent across the Holiday Pops schedule is a commitment to cheerful, upbeat programming.
“This season’s about light in darkness, hope in what seems to be despair, the prospect of a better world,” explains Lockhart. “That’s what informs the Christian tradition, that’s what informs the Jewish tradition; all of those things are about being able to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable, and I think this may be a year where a lot of people would like to hear that message deeply.”
Dec 5-31 at Symphony Hall, Boston. Tickets $33-$160, 888-266-1200, www.bostonpops.org