Captivating musical performances under the shadows of an extravagant and dazzling setup of Conte Forum brought Boston College students, alumni, and parents to their feet on Friday night for the 31st annual Pops on the Heights. Grammy-winning country music group Little Big Town headlined the event, which also featured performances by the Boston Pops Orchestra, BC students, and other musical groups.
Pops on the Heights, also known as the Barbara and Jim Cleary Scholarship Gala, raises money for scholarships for BC students and has raised more than $130 million since the tradition began in 1993.
This year, the event raised more than $15 million, a record-breaking figure, according to a video message by Patti and Jonathan Kraft and Paul and Sandra Edgerley, who served as co-chairs for this year’s Pops on the Heights. The video message mentioned that the funds raised will also go toward “Soaring Higher,” a newly announced initiative by the University that will support student life, financial aid, and academics at BC.
The Boston College Marching Band kicked off the night from behind the stage, with performances including “Call of the Champions,” which the band performed alongside the University Chorale of Boston College, who was seated just in front of it.
The Pops Orchestra, led by conductor Keith Lockhart, then took the reins and performed songs such as “Exsultate Justi” from Empire of the Sun and “Suo Gân” with the Chorale as the students’ voices reverberated throughout Conte Forum. The Orchestra also tapped into film soundtracks as it performed “Suite” from the iconic film Back to the Future. Lockhart took a moment to recognize Riikka Pietiläinen Caffrey, the new director of the University Chorale, who helmed her first Pops performance for the organization.
“We look forward to working with her for many years as we did with John Finney for the years before that,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart also recognized University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.; Chairman of the BC Board of Trustees Peter Markell, BC ’77; and the Kraft and Edgerley families. Other notable figures at the event included BC men’s basketball head coach Earl Grant and Athletics Director Blake James.
The Orchestra continued its showcase of musical prowess, with chords of music echoing through the arena as videos and images of student life, academics, and athletics played on the video screen on stage.
Margaret Whyte, MCAS ’25, the evening’s first student performer, then took the stage, performing “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife. Whyte’s impressive vocals captivated the audience, which broke into applause following the rousing performance.
The talents of the student body continued into the next performance, which featured Andrew Caden, MCAS ’24, who performed “The Cat Rambles to the Child’s Saucepan” to a dazzled audience as majestic, fast-paced chords emanated from his fiddle. Caden was joined on stage by Boston College Irish Dance for part of the performance, which added a rich excitement to the evening with their jig dance performance.
Following an intermission that featured a rendition of “Cantina Band” from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope by the Orchestra, Little Big Town stepped on stage, kicking off its performance with “Boondocks” before taking a moment to recognize the night’s occasion by thanking the Kraft and Edgerley families.
“This is quite an event,” Little Big Town said. “It’s just incredible.”
The band continued on with performances of hits like “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” and “Problem Child” as band members Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet helmed the guitar for much of the night, with Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild, Westbrook, and Sweet delivering incredible vocals.
The group’s hit song “Girl Crush” rounded out the evening as Conte Forum got on its feet with people dancing and waving glow sticks across the arena. Maroon and gold balloons descended on the audience as Little Big Town wrapped up, with the group expressing its gratitude for an incredible evening.
“We love you, Boston,” Schlapman said. “You hold a special place in our hearts. We will be back soon.”