Keith Lockhart — who can not remember being in Tucson — brings the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra to Centennial Hall Friday. Lockhart is in his 18th season as Pops conductor.

Hilary Scott

Keith Lockhart will lead the Boston Pops Orchestra in its first Tucson concert Friday.

This might be Lockhart’s first time to Tucson, period. He said he can’t recall if he’s been here in all the years that he’s brought the Boston Pops to the Phoenix area.

“I don’t even think I’ve ever been to Tucson,” the 54-year-old father of three young children said late last month during a call about the Centennial Hall concert.

That’s pretty sad, maestro, you tell him and he chuckles and apologizes. And then he promises that he will make up for lost time with a concert that will have folks singing in the aisles.


“It’s a great Boston Pops tradition — the singalong, where the audience will get to raise their voices in song with the Boston Pops in some of the greatest songs from the cinema like ‘As Time Goes By,’ ‘Moon River,’ ‘Over the Rainbow,’” said Lockhart, who celebrates his 20th season with the Pops next year. “I think it will be a lot of fun.”

The best-of tour taps some of the gems that have become signature works for the orchestra and for Lockhart, including Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo”; Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing”; Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”; and Bernstein’s Overture from “Candide.”

Lockhart sprinkles in works by his estimable predecessor, John Williams, a multiple Academy Award-winning composer (scores for such films as “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” “Fiddler On the Roof,” “Schindler’s List”), and rock gems including Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” then tosses in a little “Riverdance” and “42nd Street” to create an evening that Lockhart says will have been worth the long wait.

“My favorite thing is that this is an orchestra and a venue where the audience can hear the largo from the ‘New World Symphony’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in the same concert. And I think it kind of shows the amazing breadth of this orchestra that they play so many things so well,” said Lockhart, who also conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra and is artistic director of the summertime Brevard Music Center festival in North Carolina. “It’s a very exciting mix of music. It’s a great live music experience.”

Lockhart said one of his favorite moments in the concert is the sing-alongs, when people jump in with little coaxing.

“It’s amazing. People who would never be caught dead singing in public, somehow you turn the lights down, you put a lot of people in the auditorium with them and they all burst forward in song,” said Lockhart, genuinely giddy as he describes the scene. “This is something that (former conductor Arthur) Fiedler was doing 75 or 80 years ago. I updated the repertoire; he was doing ‘Down By the Old Millstream’ and ‘Bicycle Built for Two.’ We acknowledged that the people who knew those songs were probably not with us any more. … People just like to sing. They just like to be given the excuse to.”

Contact Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.