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Holiday orchestra concert tour hits IC

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | NOVEMBER 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Scott Leonard, a member of the a cappella group Rockapella, remembers when he was a kid looking forward to watching the Boston Pops Christmas Special every year on TV.

Now, for the first time, Leonard, along with the rest of the Rockapella members, will team up with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra for its holiday concert. Under the direction of conductor Keith Lockhart, the ringing of jingle bells will fill Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7 p.m. Nov. 27.

Admission ranges from $22.50 to $90.

The orchestra hopes to play a concert that all ages can enjoy by playing "classic" holiday songs such as "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," "Sleigh Ride," and selections from The Nutcracker.

"When the Pops plays 'Sleigh Ride,' I might just retire, because it's the best arrangement I've ever heard," Leonard said. "To stand in front of 80 musicians and conductor Keith Lockhart and have that sound coming behind you is really miraculous."

Lockhart, who has conducted the orchestra for 17 years, said the concert is a tradition that people respond to positively because they are welcome to sing along.

"There is nothing cooler than hearing 5,000 people singing Christmas songs together," he said. "We send people back out into the snow a little more in the holiday spirit than when they started."

The holiday tour will be fairly short for the orchestra — it will stop in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa before heading back to its hometown, Boston.

The 126-year-old music group has played at the World Series, Super Bowls, and Radio City Music Hall. Under Lockhart, the orchestra has been on 35 tours to such places as Japan and South Korea.

The orchestra performs 120 concerts a year, but it has never been to Iowa City.

"In my time with the orchestra, we have played in 34 states, and this is my first time in Iowa," Lockhart said. "It's great to make contact with our fans, and we look forward to being there."

The Boston Pops is perhaps most famous for its performance in its hometown on the Fourth of July.

While its music is rooted in the classical genre, it also plays a wide variety of musical styles. Artists such as John Mayer and Chris Botti and such rock groups as Aerosmith are just a few of the musicians the orchestra has collaborated with.

Hancher Executive Director Charles Swanson said he can't think of a better way to put everyone in the holiday spirit, and Hancher is very fortunate to be a part of the tour.

"I think so many people have experienced Boston Pops on television but not live, and we are all about connecting people with great artists," he said. "It's one of those concerts that you don't want to miss at all, and we want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy this with us."


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