Holiday Pops, a Boston Christmastime tradition, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Shows begin at Symphony Hall on Dec. 1 and run through Christmas Eve.
Keith Lockhart, who has been the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra's conductor since 1995, spoke to Boston Public Radio about how the concerts bring Bostonians together for the holidays.
"A lot of people come in, and they get settled with their families, and they're already ordering plates of Christmas cookies and bottles of champagne and that sort of thing," he said. "This is one of the things that makes these concerts special is that they really are a social event for people."
Boston-born conductor Arthur Fiedler introduced the city to what was originally a three-concert series called "A Pops Christmas Party" in 1973. Since then, 16 different choirs and choruses, 27 different conductors, and over 200 narrators have been a part of the beloved tradition. (This year, on Dec. 18, Boston Public Radio's hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan will take over as narrators and read Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas.")
For the 50th anniversary shows, the Boston Pops will be performing with Tanglewood Festival Chorus led by James Burton, performing Christmas classics like "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride." And far from the inaugural year with just three concerts, Lockhart explained that this December will be jam-packed with performances.
"[O]n most of the weekends, we do three performances a day," he said. "And what's weird, even stranger is that sometimes that's two performances in Symphony Hall and one in stores."
In addition to matinees geared toward children, there will be a sensory-friendly concert on Saturday, Dec. 2. Lockhart explained this type of concert was designed for people across the autism spectrum. The sold-out show will be reduced to an hour in length, with quieter volume levels and less light in addition to amenities offered like a quiet room and noise-canceling headphones.
Lockhart hopes that the Pops concerts will leave audience members more content than when they got to their seats.
"I hope people are transported for 2 hours to their happy place, wherever their happy place is, and they come out with a better feeling about themselves and the world around them," he said.
The Holiday Pops performances will be from Dec. 1 through Christmas Eve at Symphony Hall. There will also be performances in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Dec. 2; Storrs, Connecticut, on Dec. 8; Manchester, New Hampshire, on Dec. 10; Providence, Rhode Island, on Dec. 16; and Lowell, Massachuestts, on Dec. 17.