For many, Independence Day involves grilling some meat, sipping a beer, and lounging by a body of water. For Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, however, the day tends to look a little different.
“I don’t think I’ve had a Fourth of July off in 32, 33 years,” he said, noting that he worked other concerts before joining the Pops in 1995.
Lockhart likens the Pops’ annual Fourth of July extravaganza to the orchestra’s version of a World Series game. This year’s rendition, which will be live-streamed on Boston.com, features an all-female lineup of guests artists, headlined by Newton-raised Rachel Platten. While the holiday itself can be hectic for Lockhart and his orchestra, he said it gets tough the day before.
“The third of July is much worse and much harder than the Fourth of July,” he said.
The conductor spends the bulk of the third on the Esplanade, rehearsing, meeting with the music director, and making tweaks to the show. That’s followed by the evening rehearsal concert, which Lockhart said is usually accompanied by “several hours of post-mortem” and discussion.
“So,” he explained, “the first part of my July Fourth day that makes it ideal is when my wife lets me sleep in.”
Specifically, Lockhart said his perfect wake-up time is 9 a.m. It’s not long, however, before he’s back on the edge of the Charles River.
“For me, a day with not a cloud in the sky and about 75 as the high would be the day that I would be hoping for, and I don’t really usually get that,” he said. “I always go to the Esplanade in the middle of the day to kind of cheer on the crowd who is already there waiting, and do some interviews, and that sort of thing. Then after I come home from that, I like to take a big two-hour nap.”
Two to three hours before showtime, Lockhart said he likes to get up, eat a light meal, and focus on the task ahead.
“You have to take it very seriously,” he said. “It really can be the only thing I can do that day is do my best on that concert.”
Lockhart used to catch up on the classic Fourth of July festivities by throwing a party for the Pops staff the next day, but he and his wife realized most people were too exhausted to stop by.
“My wife said to me once, ‘Think of yourself as being the Fourth of July version of Santa Claus. Everybody’s expecting — you’re never going to get to put your feet up and have a nice, cool drink on this day,’” he said. “That’s gladly done because it’s an amazing event, and I’m really grateful to be part of it.”