Rachel Platten, Rhiannon Giddens, Indigo Girls will help Pops celebrate Fourth of July

The finale during the Fourth of July Pops celebration on the Esplanade last year.
Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe
The finale during the Fourth of July Pops celebration on the Esplanade last year.

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular this year will feature singer-songwriter Rachel Platten, Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens, and folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, plus an appearance by legendary actress Rita Moreno. 

And for those who can’t make it to the Esplanade on July 4, the Pops also announced plans to enhance viewing options, including a big screen on the Rose Kennedy Greenway and an expansion of live-streaming platforms. As per tradition, fireworks, military flyover, and world-class orchestra led by Keith Lockhart will all be returning for the ceremony, which typically brings around 400,000 people to the banks of the Charles River every year. The Pops will also perform the same concert with its guest headliners on July 3, but without the fireworks.

Platten, who grew up in Newton Centre, rose to prominence in 2015 with the release of her wildly popular pop anthem, “Fight Song.” The Grammy Award-winning Giddens is a prolific singer, banjoist, and violinist whose work as both a solo artist and as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops has earned her years of critical praise. Just last year, she received a $625,000 “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls, who have been playing together since the late 1980s and won a Grammy in 1990, round off the diverse headliners for this year’s festivities. 


“That’s not accidental,” Lockhart explained over the phone about the eclectic lineup. “It’s diverse, and it’s also entirely female, which is also not entirely accidental. This is a celebration of who we are in total, and I think we try to reflect that in the choices we bring in.” 

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 In addition to the guest headliners, the Pops will also pay tribute to legendary American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein as part of an ongoing celebration this season marking the centennial of his birth. While the tributes have been happening all over the world — Lockhart just got back from a centennial concert in Prague — the Pops’ concert will also feature Moreno, the actress and singer widely known for her Oscar-winning turn as Anita in “West Side Story,” whose music was composed by Bernstein.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/file 1988
Legendary American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.

“We were thrilled because, for one thing, talk about a classic!” said Lockhart. “One of the things we had thought to do this year, besides present these great artists, is continue our tribute to Bernstein, and having her there will be the icing on the cake for that.” 

As local fans are likely aware, Bernstein also has multiple connections to Massachusetts: He was born in Lawrence, attended Harvard, and even launched his conducting career with the Pops from the Hatch Shell podium in 1941. For Lockhart, who will be conducting his 24th Fourth concert this year, being able to pay tribute to Bernstein from literally where it all started makes the event all the more special. “For every young, American musician like me who grew up in the second part of the 20th century, he was a God to all of us,” he said. “The whole musical world is celebrating this; it’s very much about him, his legacy, and American music in general, and the Boston Pops is a huge proponent of American music and all its many facets. So it’s great for me to be able to focus part of the attention on somebody that meant so much to the musical culture of this country.” Members of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the Pops and Boston Symphony Orchestra, will also make an appearance for the centennial. 

Last year’s Fourth festivities were the first to be broadcast by Bloomberg, which made the entire three-hour broadcast available to watch live via its TV channel and website, albeit to mixed results. This time, to prevent the accessibility problems that irked some viewers and to expand its reach, the event will be live-streamed on, and, in addition to Bloomberg’s own website. While Lockhart personally thought the broadcast itself was “a big success,” he’s aware of people’s concerns and thinks that greater dissemination will help everyone tune in. 


“It’s about getting the word out and people knowing where to find us,” he said. “I think [the live-streams are] another step towards making sure that everybody who wants to see the show, not only in the Boston area but around the country, sees it.” 

Amy Ray (L) and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls perform a tribute to Neil Young at the 22nd Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, May 16, 2005. Young received the ASCAP Founders Award. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello ORG XMIT: PIZ09D Library Tag 06252006 NorthWest 1, 2
Chris Pizzello/Reuters/file
Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls performed at the 22nd Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards in 2005.

Robert Steiner can be reached at