‘Pops’ Tradition Returns To BC For 23rd Annual Scholarship Event

Conte Forum transformed into a breathtaking scene Friday night to accommodate a wonderful array of talent. The stage was framed by massive flat screens that featured videos and illustrations specific to each segment of the show. Tables lined with white table cloths were arranged just below the stage for a selection of benefactors and dignitaries. From the ceiling, colored lights illuminated the stage—and even the audience, during certain selections.

The 23rd annual Pops on the Heights concert honored the legacy of Barbara and Jim Cleary, longtime trustees of the University. Pops on the Heights is BC’s largest annual fundraiser. The University welcomed members of the BC community, the Boston Pops, and this year special guests Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, and Judith Hill. This year, a record high of $7.5 million was raised in funds for Pops Scholarships, which will be distributed to 275 Pops Scholarship recipients.  

The night started off with a set from the Screaming Eagles Marching Band. They played a grand assortment of songs from Les Miserables. After the Screaming Eagles marched off, the BC Chorale stepped center stage, under the direction of John Finney, performing “Call of Champions” with the Pops.  

Accompanied by the Boston Pops, Liz McGovern, MCAS ’18, took the audience’s breath away with her performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Her voice was mesmerizing through the slow, enchanting tune, and left everyone spellbound.  

The remainder of the opening selections were excerpted taken from the famous chorale-orchestra piece, “Carmina Burana” by Orff. Then changing the pace completely, the Pops Orchestra took on the Led Zeppelin classic, “Stairway to Heaven,” during which Conte Forum was remade into a sea of florescent lights. The audience waved its complementary glow sticks in rhythm to the iconic song. The first half of the concert closed with a funky collection of ’70s sing-along hits that included Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville,” Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” and Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” The crowd danced along to the classics while Conductor Keith Lockhart asked the audience to, “Sing it like you mean it!”

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After the intermission came the headlining artists: Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, and Judith Hill. Love sang a variety of classics including The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “He’s a Rebel.” Love did backup vocals for the likes of Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, and many others. In 2011, Love was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her decades of work. After Love came the extraordinary vocals of Judith Hill, a backup singer for Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Michael Jackson. Hill sang “Heal the World” at Jackson’s funeral in 2009. Taking her place behind the keyboard, Hill showed off her incredible vocal spectrum. Then came Lisa Fischer who brought the audience to their feet with her hypnotic sound. A backup singer for Rolling Stones, Sting, and Nine Inch Nails, Fischer’s indisputably adept voice was a combination of chilling and soulful. These women introduced one another to the audience with a strong sense of appreciation and admiration. They remarked how much they loved performing with an orchestra that pushed them to the limits of their vocal ability. She had an incredible range that left everyone in awe. The three vocalists put their voices together to close off the set and left the crowd feeling deeply moved.

The night ended with a chorus of “For Boston” and patriotic selections featuring the wonderfully talented Screaming Eagles piccolo player, Jaimie Chang, MCAS ’16. There was a transcendent feeling of unity among the BC community of students and alumni gathered together. As balloons rained down from the ceiling of Conte Forum, the performers took their final bows and another enchanting Pops on the Heights came to a close.

Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff