Boston Pops Tap Own History For American Songbook Celebration

By Jared Bowen and Bob Seay

June 6, 2011

Richard Rodgers, seen here with Lorenz Hart, is considered on of the seminal writers of the American Songbook.

BOSTON — The Boston Pops' 126th season is now underway, with a special focus on the American Songbook.

That's a phrase we've all heard — but what does it actually mean? The American Songbook encompasses a broad range of music, which some people say extends as far back as the 1800's and can go into somewhat contemporary times.

Singer and anthropologist Michael Feinstein says much of the American Songbook explores love and romance in clever, witty words and playful tunes.

"Most songs are songs of romance and love and the songs from the Golden Age, the '20s, '30s and 40s, were a panoply of extraordinary brilliant, clever expressions of romance. These songwriters were always trying to find different ways of expressing that oft-expressed emotion. And the wit and the humor still tickles people," Feinstein said.

And that's what conductor Keith Lockhart says he's really looking for — music that still tickles, that still resonates. Classics. 

"To, me the definition of classic is something that reaches somebody for whom it was not originally intended. Shakespeare’s plays for example are an incontrovertible example of that. But also the songs of Gershwin, the songs of Porter," Lockhart said. "Things that people now, who were not alive when either of those people died still sing, still understand, still love." 

The Boston Pops are especially well-equipped to explore this canon. The Pops is older than the songbook itself, and for decades it has literally given voice to the genre with performers like Rosemary Clooney.

Click the player above to hear WGBH's Bob Seay's full interview with Greater Boston's Jared Bowen on the Boston Pops' 126th season.

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