The holidays may serve as a rejoiceful respite for many people, but for Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops, it’s officially the busy season.
While the maestro’s main focus this time of year may be entertaining the masses and spreading cheer, he revealed how he still manages to celebrate with his family.
“I get to be involved in so many people’s understanding and appreciation of the holidays, putting them in the Christmas spirit throughout the whole month of December,” Lockhart said, jokingly adding, “So my main tradition for the last quarter-century has been spending the holidays with about 100,000 of my closest friends.”
Each year, Lockhart’s holiday plans place him within the walls of Symphony Hall from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until Christmas, when the Pops play about 45 shows in Boston and throughout New England. But when he isn’t waving his baton, he’s squeezing some seasonal merriment with his wife and two sons into his schedule.
“I have two small kids at home who are still very, very much into every aspect of Christmas, so we try to honor that,” Lockhart said. “Three weeks before Christmas, there’s usually one night when there’s not a concert and that is treated as ‘Tree-Buying Night.’”
“That is the night in which we all jump into the SUV, go buy the tree and strap it to the top of the car,” he added. “I get it set up so that Emily and the kids can decorate it while I’m back to work in the Hall.”
Lockhart and the local orchestra, accompanied by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, work right up to the main event, with their last concert taking place on Christmas Eve. Generally, his family is in the audience at that final performance.
“After, we often either go to friends or go out for Christmas Eve dinner because the last thing people want to do when they come home at 5 on Christmas Eve is cook a dinner,” he said. “Somehow that makes Christmas Day very special because we tend to stay home.”
“It kind of heightens the sense of home and family that we feel on Christmas Day,” he continued. “We try to do as little as possible, besides rushing downstairs with the kids to see what Santa left.”
Aside from unwrapping presents left by the Big Man in Red, Lockhart said his holidays at home also — not surprisingly — include some tunes.
“There’s been a lot of music at my Christmases since I could remember,” he said. “My brother and my parents, at one level or another, all played instruments. We used to sit around the piano and play Christmas carols as a not very good quartet.”
He’s keeping that tradition alive with the next generation, with his wife and sons playing carols together. Apparently, “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph” are among the boys’ favorites, while he and the Mrs. favor “less jangle-y” classics like “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night.”
However, Lockhart does hear more than his fair share of Christmas songs at work, so he does have his limits.
“Well, I don’t play a lot of ‘Sleigh Ride’ on Christmas,” he said, laughing.
“I do get burnt out going to malls,” he added. “When I have a free morning and a chance to do Christmas shopping, I’m bombarded by Christmas music everywhere, I try very hard not to scream and run away.”
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