Keith Lockhart Wants You to Break a Guinness World Record

Keith Lockhart has his fans and his detractors — both pretty legion — and yet all would have to agree that man sure does love him some showmanship. Every year you hear the same humbugs grumbling about the garish July 4th concert or the predictable Holiday Pops, and they pretty much all square the blame on the man on the podium. And certainly when compared to his now-erstwhile counterpart in the BSO, James Levine, who was so reticent he seemed not to even inhabit Symphony Hall … well, Lockhart certainly has long come across as a total cornball, even downright resolute about his cornballitude. But in this city so often chilled by hipster irony and blue-blood gravitas, I say god bless him.

That being said, tomorrow Lockhart will reach a new plateau of goofiness. In short, he and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus are inviting you — yes, you — to join them on the Christian Science Center plaza to try to break the Guinness World Record for the most carolers in one place. These cheerfully cheesy chansons begin at noon, tomorrow December 3. The current record is 9,100 who got together to sing carols in Adelaide, Australia, on November 15, 2010. Everyone has to sing for 15 minutes straight for the record to count. So get out there, all you wassailers!

OK, so the Scrooge in me has a few points to make. Who knew there was such a record? But given that the Guinness folks have records for Largest Collection of Traffic Cones, Loudest Purr by a Domestic Cat, and Heaviest Weight Lifted by Nipples, can we really be surprised and thus inspired that there’s a world record to beat for most carolers? Secondly, this ain’t a longstanding record — so even though Lockhart failed in his first attempt to break it in 2010, it still seems as if somebody will easily be coming down the pike in 2012 to take the record back. Pretty soon it’ll be like those neverending feuds over which town lights the most pumpkins at once. Add in the fact that the Christian Science plaza is nice and convenient for Lockhart — he can just saunter across the street from his Symphony Hall office — and that it’s all one elaborate promo for the Holiday Pops season … and boy, the detractors can rub their hands in gleeful dismay.

But here’s the thing: I’ve interviewed him a few times, and even about the most mundane topics, he comes across as a genuinely gung-ho person. Anyone who has seen Lockhart perform knows that he’s not going to mail in this appearance, and in fact he and the Pops musicians are scheduled to hang around the Prudential Center all afternoon. Besides, he’s trying to get thousands of Bostonians in one place to get excited about the holidays and about music. It’s this kind of almost vaudevillean hustle that keeps our fair city nationally front-and-center during July 4th, no matter how “trashy” it gets. Or that gets Shaquille O’Neal to guest-conduct, which may have been the most fun few minutes I had at a concert of any sort last year. After all, the Pops is meant to be popular for everyone, which is Lockhart’s real goal here, then so be it if we end up in the same book as Most Garters Removed with the Teeth in One Minute or the Hairiest Teenager. In fact, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, even though I’ll probably avoid the crowds and do my holiday shopping somewhere else.

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