While northeast America was bracing for one of the biggest blizzards in decades, Maestro Keith Lockhart was sounding pretty jovial on the phone. Calling while on the road with the BBC Radio Orchestra, he was in Iowa and the weather was the diametric opposite of what would pelt the east coast in a few hours. Of course he was concerned about what effects the storm would have in Boston because his wife and three sons were still there while he was on tour but he was enjoying the fine weather.
Lockhart had been named the principal conductor of the London based orchestra in 2010. That, and his position with the renowned Boston Pops, keeps him well stocked in frequent flyer miles.
His upcoming Southeast tour with the Pops will begin on February 24th and will continue into March. The tour will play Newport News, VA, Greenville, Athens, GA before heading down to Florida. This particular tour will feature Ann Hampton Callaway who is familiar to Broadway audiences from her performance in the musical SWING! which played at the St. James Theatre from 1999-2001. "Ann's done a lot of stuff with us over the years," Lockhart explains, "and she came to us a couple of years ago with this idea of a tribute to Barbra Streisand. Ann has a personal connection with Barbra Streisand: she's written songs for her and they have a good working relationship. Ann's almost as well-known as a songwriter as she is as a performer. She actually got Barbra's blessing to go ahead and do this project. It's really wonderful to hear these songs that are so iconically associated with Streisand in somebody else's hands."
Lockhart is quick to point out that this is not a Streisand impersonation, but rather an "homage" to a performer who is so very iconic. "Like Sinatra and Judy Garland, we associate the songs more with the performance than the person who wrote them," he says.
The Boston Pops program will also include music written by composers who influenced Streisand. That roster includes Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. Lockhart adds, "The death of Marvin Hamlisch gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to a man who had a huge influence on Barbra Streisand. He not only wrote songs for her like 'The Way We Were' but also served as her musical director. We're tipping our hats to somebody who died way too young and had a huge influence on American and Broadway music."
The Greenville concerts will be a collaborative effort with the Furman University's music department. Lockhart is an alumnus of the University and had been asked to do a teaching-sort -of -thing at that concert. "As a result," the maestro explains, we're going a side-by-side concert in which the Furman Symphony Orchestra will join the Boston Pops. For that concert we're changing the program and performing more Boston Pops standards like 'The 1812 Overture '. For the other concerts, the first half of the program will consist of Broadway-centric music and feature music by composers who have some connection to Streisand. Among the pieces to be performed will be Jule Styne's overture to GYPSY and the title tune from Jerry Herman's beloved HELLO, DOLLY! The second half of the evening will be songs associated with the FUNNY GIRL star performed by the incomparable Ann Hampton Callaway." Speaking of Callaway, Lockhart becomes effusive in his praise for her, saying: "One of the first things I think of when it comes to Ann is that she's hugely intelligent. She's not only a performer, she's also a serious and gifted musician who knows exactly what she's doing and why she's doing it at every step along the way. That makes her a very rewarding collaborator."
When apprised of these glowing comments in a subsequent phone call on Valentine's Day, Ann Hampton Callaway giggles girlishly and is quiet for a moment. "What a beautiful thing to say! I love working with Keith and feel we have a nice collaborative energy. We trust each other and in these situations we don't have very much time to rehearse, so it's those moments when you know you can trust someone and communicate quickly, you understand what needs to be done and the more you know the language of music, the more beautiful the music will be in that period of time."