Pops to Air Virtual 4th of July Special

This year, instead of gathering around the Hatch Shell, you’ll have to gather around your television for the Boston Pops virtual Fourth of July spectacular. There will be no live performance or fireworks on the Esplanade this year because of COVID-19.

The three hour special, which is set to broadcast on Bloomberg Television and Radio, as well as simulcast on WHDH-TV from 8-11pm on July 4, is called “A Boston Pops Salute to Our Heroes” and will honor those who have fought on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and those who have lost their lives. Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart has expressed his sadness that the Pops won’t be able to perform live, but they are looking forward to presenting this special to viewers near and far.

The Boston Pops, led by Keith Lockhart, at a previous July 4th Fireworks Spectacular on the Charles River Esplanade. Due to COVID-19, this year’s celebration will be purely broadcast on TV and radio.

“All of us at the Boston Pops are pleased to have this opportunity to present A Boston Pops Salute to Our Heroes, a special broadcast that will pay tribute to the many frontline workers who continue to do so much to keep our communities safe and running during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart said in a statement.

“One of the positive things we have learned during the last few months is that even in the middle of a health crisis so many Americans are strong, resilient, helpful, and hopeful. It has been absolutely inspiring to see our frontline workers show such extraordinary dedication to the well-being of others, with their amazing acts of sacrifice, generosity, support, and kindness, as well as the incredible skill and know-how they bring to every situation. We also think it is essential to address one of the most crucial/fundamental themes of our times—the truth that we must do better as a people to confront racism and achieve a just and equal society for everyone throughout our country. These messages of honor, unity, diversity, equality, and fellowship will resound throughout the 2020 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular broadcast by way of inspiring retrospective performances by our most popular artists of the last few years, side by side with brand new content developed over the last two months.”
As previously reported by the Boston Sun, the special will highlight memorable moments from previous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectaculars, such as performances by Melissa Etheridge, Andy Grammer, Queen Latifah, and others, along with an appearance by the first youth poet laureate of the United States, Amanda Gorman, according to a release from the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO).

The program will also feature new content, including a performance by singer Renese King and Keith Lockhart on the piano, as well as a video performance by the Boston Pops of their recent “viral hit” Summon the Heroes, which will feature an introduction by the song’s composer, John Williams. Other new content includes a virtual performance by the Boston Pops Viola Section of “Over the Rainbow,” a performance of Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday by the BSO Trumpet Section, and a video message from General James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

“Look for surprises throughout the evening; special messages from musical and community figures, and a tribute to our nation’s first responders that we’re going to put together,” Lockhart said in a recent announcement. 

Also included in the special are Boston Pops traditions such as the patriotic sing-along, a performance of John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture, the US Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus, and a fireworks display from past years to round out the program. Brian Stokes Mitchell will open the program with “America the Beautiful.”

According to the BSO release, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart will also “put a special focus on intrinsic messages of the Independence Day holiday and fundamental themes of our times around achieving a just and equal society for everyone.”

The show will be hosted by Keith Lockhart and Kim Carrigan, Joe Shortsleeve, and Janet Wu of Bloomberg Media.

Performances from previous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular Programs are as follows in order of appearance, as provided by the BSO:

Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell sings “America the Beautiful” and “Wheels of a Dream”

Amanda Mena, America’s Got Talent semifinalist from Lynn, MA, sings Pink’s What About US and the national anthem with the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters

American folk-rock singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge performs her mega-hit “I Wanna Come Over”

·Amanda Gorman, first-ever Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, performs a new take on the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” entitled “Believer’s Hymn for the Republic”

Broadway star Leslie Odom, Jr., sings “Sarah” from The Civil War, and “Without You” from Rent

·Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens, lead singer, violinist, banjo player, and a founding member of the acclaimed country, blues, and old-time music band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, performs her hits “Pretty Little Girl” and “She’s Got You”

Rita Moreno, iconic singer/actor/dancer and winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actress for the 1961 film version of West Side Story, narrates excerpts from Ellis Island: The Dream of America

Great American folk singer-songwriter, Arlo Guthrie and The Texas Tenors sing “This Land Is Your Land”

The incomparable Queen Latifah, American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, and producer sings “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”

Multi-platinum Singer/Songwriter Andy Grammer performs his hit “Give Love”

The U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus join the Pops for “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Additionally, the Boston Pops is asking fans to participate in the Great American Picnic Sweepstakes.

“Between now and July 6, the Boston Pops wants to spotlight the many ways people around the country plan for and celebrate the Fourth,” the BSO said in a release. “Contest participants can snap a photo or film a video of their celebration and post them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. By tagging #GreatAmericanPicnic @thebostonpops participants will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes,” such as “prime seating” for the 2021 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, with airfare and hotel accommodations for four guests, the release states.

Up to ten winners can also be the recipient of a “Be a Star!” video, where participants can play “kitchen spoons, shake maracas, snap fingers, or play air guitar and we’ll edit it together with footage of the Pops to create a video keepsake,” according to the release. A third prize includes a Coca-Cola branded Yeti cooler with a variety of products.

For more details and sweepstakes rules, visit bso.org.

The BSO and Boston Pops are also seeking donations, “as these challenging times of COVID-19 force the cancellation of live performances by the Boston Pops (its 2020 spring season) and Boston Symphony Orchestra (part of its 2020-21 Symphony Hall season and the entire live performance season at Tanglewood)…” the release states. Visit www.bostonpops.org/donatetoday to make a donation.

For a complete list of how to watch the broadcast, visit bostonpopsjuly4th.org.

“We hope everyone throughout the country will gather around their televisions or radios, or watch the show on their phones or tablets,” Lockhart said, “and join us as we show our appreciation for the heroes of our times and celebrate the intrinsic messages of Independence Day that unite us all in this great and beautifully diverse country.”

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