The Pops and company

Keith Lockhart
Keith Lockhart at his last performance on the Island with the Pops, in 1999. Photo by Bob Schellhammer

By Eleni Collins - August 9, 2007

Sunday evening, The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, with special guest stars Natalie Cole and Branford Marsalis, will entertain at the first Martha's Vineyard Festival, to be held at Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs.

"This is the same model that we've been doing on Nantucket for 10 years," says Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. "We're really excited that somebody on the Vineyard wanted to take after this model."

The Festival Network, a conglomeration of music industry and marketing veterans who produce festivals around the world, brings the concert to the Island. And as a benefit to the community, a portion of each ticket sold will go towards the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.

Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole.

The Boston Pops have performed on Nantucket for many summers as a benefit to that island's hospital.

"It's always easy to get a lot of people together when they know they're benefiting something," says Mr. Lockhart.

"About 8,000 people attend the Nantucket concert. I'm assuming Martha's Vineyard will be equally successful."

The concert, with Ms. Cole and Mr. Marsalis performing in the openness of Ocean Park combined with the repertoire of the Pops, is sure to please.

"We have a really, really good orchestra," says the conductor. "An incredible amount of talent and virtuosity. We play an amazingly varied group of pieces. They perform more concerts on less prep time than any orchestra that I know."

Though the Pops have performed on the Island, Ms. Cole has not, and she first about the concert just over three weeks ago. "I suspect it will be mostly jazzy songs," she says. "I'd like to be able to get a few songs from my new record."

Ms. Cole's latest record is "Leavin'," a compilation of cover songs by artists such as Sting, Aretha Franklin, and Neil Young, among others. In addition to the covers, there is one original, "5 Minutes Away."

Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis.

Familiar with the east coast after attending high school and college in New England, Ms. Cole lived in New York and then Massachusetts after graduating college.

"I love it," she says of the east coast. "My mother was raised in Boston. She's from Cambridge. She always wanted us to experience the east coast."

Both Mr. Lockhart and Ms. Cole have come to the Island for relaxation, at separate times. Ms. Cole has been here several times, with friends and also with her sisters, but has never gone to an Island beach. "We just hang out," she says.

Mr. Lockhart has been here a couple of times, he says, though never before with the Pops. "I love it in October when it's a little less crowded," he says. "I mostly relax, stroll around, have a good meal, and try to hide."

This time though, both entertainers will only be here for the night of the concert, as their rigorous summer schedules continue. See and hear them both, with saxophonist Mr. Marsalis, this Sunday night.

The Martha's Vineyard Festival, 7 pm, Sunday, August 12, Ocean Park, Oak Bluffs. Benefits the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. Sponsored by The Festival Network. $45; $15 for children. Available at DaRosa's, Oak Bluffs; Vineyard Vines, Edgartown, or at 877-655-4849.