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Still poppin'

Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops, knows he's lucky to have Broadway singer Kelli O'Hara on the orchestra's Florida tour.

"She's really on the top of her game after starring in The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific,” Lockhart said. "That's the great thing about being the Boston Pops. People still want to perform with you."

O'Hara and another Broadway actor-singer, Jason Danieley, headline a Cole Porter program with Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, which has performances this week in Sarasota and Clearwater. They'll perform the standards.

"You can't leave those out, because then people hate you," Lockhart said. "Easy to Love. Night and Day. Begin the Beguine. You're the Top. … It really is a treasure trove, right in the heart of the American songbook."

The Pops takes a traditional approach to programming on tour, but it does more experimentation at home in Boston, playing with indie rock bands such as Guster and My Morning Jacket and singer-songwriters Natalie Merchant, Aimee Mann and Ben Folds.

"We float lots of trial balloons," Lockhart said. "They're not 100 percent successful. Many succeed in bringing a different sort of audience across our threshold."

Even the Boston Pops, one of classical music's most lucrative institutions, has had to change with the times. "Everybody is under challenge in the performing arts right now," Lockhart said. "We're not immune to that."

The Boston Pops is mainly made up of members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but the touring Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra is a separate group. "Nobody in the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra is a member of the Boston Symphony," Lockhart said.

Joseph Scheer, concertmaster of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, is former concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra. An avid fisherman, Scheer is popular on the Florida tours.

"One of the times we were down there, Joe went fishing and caught some swordfish," Lockhart said. "He had the chef at the hotel prepare it, and 15 or 20 of us had a swordfish dinner, courtesy of Joe. That's the kind of concertmaster I like to have."

The Boston Pops

Conductor Keith Lockhart leads the orchestra at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. $30-$140. (941) 953-3368; The program repeats at Ruth Eckerd Hall at 8 p.m. Wednesday. $63-$128. (727) 791-7400;

Still poppin' 03/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 3:31am]
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