July 3, 2006

Aerosmith joins Boston Pops for July 4th

By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - One of America's most venerable and
best-known city orchestras, the Boston Pops, is letting its
hair down.

Famous for light classical music and family pop tunes from
decades past, the orchestra will perform with Aerosmith lead
singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry at Boston's annual
Independence Day concert on Tuesday.

The free outdoor show is part of the 121-year-old
orchestra's move to add more rock to its repertoire.

The Pops, comprised of the Boston Symphony minus its
principal players, is perhaps best known for July 4th concerts
along the Charles River that began in 1974 led by legendary
conductor Arthur Fiedler and include stirring renditions of
Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and fireworks.

But hoping to dispel the notion that symphonies can do
little more than produce elevator music versions of rock, the
orchestra is teaming up with rock bands under its "Pops on the
Edge," series that began in 2005.

Elvis Costello set the tone as guest artist at the opening
of this year's Pops season with an acoustic set in May,
featuring his hit "Alison," and a 15-minute piece from his 2004
score to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Fresh from touring with Seattle grunge rockers Pearl Jam,
the Kentucky quintet My Morning Jacket joined the orchestra at
Boston's 106-year-old Symphony Hall in mid-June to formally
open the Edge series.

They were followed by folk-rock singer-songwriter Aimee
Mann in two performances last week.

Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart describes the sets as
genre-bending. Pops' management say they are essential to the
orchestra's future as it faces unrivaled competition for
entertainment such as home theaters and downloaded music.

Pops attendance has slipped from a high of 93 percent of
Symphony Hall's capacity in 2000 to 88 percent in 2005.

"This is a way to help ensure that the 20-somethings of
today will remember who the Boston Pops are," said Dennis
Alves, the orchestra's director of artistic planning.

Reviews of the "Edge" performances were as mixed as the
crowd, where well-heeled season regulars rubbed shoulders with
a scruffy generation who shouted requests to the stage and had
mostly never set foot in Symphony Hall.

The Boston Phoenix, an alternative weekly, panned the
orchestral treatments of My Morning Jacket.

"When you couldn't hear the Pops, as was the case for most
of the concert, it was frustrating to watch -- a great band
playing for keeps but sounding suffocated, and a world-class
orchestra almost completely drowned out," it said.