As of press time, Woodstock 50 is on again — though by the time you read this, it may well be off again, then on again again — but regardless of whether its organizers can actually pull it off, there will always be a Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. This year’s event at the Hatch Shell is being headlined by Oscar-nominated rap royalty Queen Latifah, with assists from “America’s Got Talent” alums Amanda Mena (who also won the Spanish-language version of “The Voice” in 2014) and the Texas Tenors, the US Navy Band Sea Chanters Chorus, two scrappy F-15 Eagle jets, and one veteran of the original Aquarian Exposition, Arlo Guthrie.
The same show, minus the fireworks, will be presented July 3. Call it two days of patriotism and music.
Guthrie’s appearance marks the singer’s second time performing at the Fourth of July concert; his first was in 2001. “He is one of the few, maybe the only headliner whom I’ve ever repeated,” says Pops conductor Keith Lockhart.
By contrast, it’s Queen Latifah’s first time joining the Pops at the Hatch Shell, though not for lack of trying. Scheduling conflicts prevented her from accepting before, but Lockhart’s enthusiasm for performing with her is evident.
“She opened the Pops season two years ago, and she was just amazing,” he says. “I knew her as a singing actress in things like ‘Chicago,’ and I certainly knew her rap career. But somebody laid a CD of her singing standards on me, and I said, ‘Wow, she’s an amazingly good singer.’ And of course, also just a dynamic performer onstage.”
The 16-year-old Mena first came to Lockhart’s attention as a winner of this year’s Fidelity Investments Young Artists Competition before he learned of her success on TV talent shows. “Amazing poise,” he says of the Lynn native. “Just sparkles on stage.” Of the Texas Tenors, Lockhart says, “We try to do some acts that are more distinctly patriotic in nature. They’re good, too, which is a great advantage.”
They may have another advantage, given that Lockhart compares the concert’s lineup to that of a variety show. “It’s a concert celebrating America,” he says. “It’s for everybody.” And besides, if it weren’t for that seeming lack of cohesiveness, Lockhart might not have memories like the one from the last time Guthrie shared the Fourth of July stage with the Pops and their guests.
“There was a post-wrap dinner that night, and Debbie Reynolds sat next to me and across the table from Cyndi [Lauper], and spent the entire time talking to Cyndi in the accent of [Lina Lamont] in ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ” he says. “Because she kind of thought that Cyndi had based her voice on that character.
“Turns out that’s actually how Cyndi talks. And Cyndi thought it was funny for the first 15 minutes or so. And Arlo, being the kind of social commentator with his boots on the table in the corner, was just taking it all in with a big smile on his face,” Lockhart says with a laugh.
Both concerts are free and will begin at 8 p.m. The July 4 concert will be broadcast on WHDH-TV and Bloomberg Television, with livestreams available on www.bloomberg.com and @tictoc. For the third year, Boston-based investment management firm Eaton Vance is the event’s presenting sponsor.
2019 BOSTON POPS FIREWORKS SPECTACULAR
At the Hatch Shell, July 4 at 8 p.m. Free. www.bostonpopsjuly4.orgMarc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc