Yes, I went in the sweltering heat of July. But it was well worth it, even better than the Capitol Fourth in DC.
Not only do I finally get to attend this great event, it is held on both July 3 AND July 4!!!! The poster says: Conductor Keith Lockhart directs the Boston POPS Orchestra at the Hatch Shell, on the Esplanade, performing the identical concert which will be played on July 4th minus the fireworks display. Seating for this free event is on a first come basis, it will be crowded, but not as much as on the 4th.
This year’s headliner is Rachel Platten, along with The Indigo Girls, Rita Moreno, and Rhiannon Giddens.
Yes, I will miss both John Williams and the famous maestro himself, Arthur Fiedler. This televised program is followed by a spectacular 23-minute fireworks display over the Charles River. The best place for viewing the fireworks is along Memorial Drive on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.
Sheri and I attended a Capitol Fourth in Washington DC several years ago. The featured performer was none other than Stevie Wonder. But we encountered over a million people. It started to rain, lightly at first, but then increased to a typical summer rain. We left a little early, and watched most of the great fireworks show from DuPont Circle.
This year will be the 44th Spectacular, celebrating 241 years of our country’s independence. From the Boston Pops website: Affectionately known as “America’s Orchestra,” the Boston Pops is the most recorded and arguably the most beloved orchestra in the country, beginning with the establishment of the modern-era Pops by Arthur Fiedler and continuing through the innovations introduced by John Williams and the new-millennium Pops spearheaded by Keith Lockhart. Its remarkable history began with its founding in 1885. Fours years earlier, in 1881, Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra, calling its establishment “the dream of my life.” From the start he intended to present, in the warmer months, concerts of light classics and the popular music of the day. From a practical perspective, Higginson realized that these “lighter” performances would provide year-round employment for his musicians. In May 1885—a little more than a month before the inaugural “Promenade Concert”—German-born conductor Adolf Neuendorff, under the aegis of the BSO, conducted a series of “Popular Concerts” in the Boston Music Hall, where the audience sat in typical concert seating and no refreshments were served. On July 11, 1885, Neuendorff—who became the first conductor of the Pops, before that name was officially adopted—led the first official “Promenade Concert,” distinguished from “Popular Concerts” by virtue of seating (tables and chairs instead of auditorium-style rows), program format (three parts divided by two intermissions, during which patrons could promenade around the concert hall), and the availability of food and beverages. For the rest of the 19th century, although formally called “Promenade Concerts,” they continued to be referred to informally as “Popular,” which eventually became shortened to “Pops,” the name officially adopted in 1900. The following year the orchestra performed for the first time in its new home, Symphony Hall. Not only is this performance space acoustically outstanding, it was also designed, at Higginson’s insistence, so that the rows of floor seats for Boston Symphony concerts could be replaced by tables and chairs for Pops concerts. To this day, patrons sitting at the cabaret-style tables can enjoy food and drink, along with the kind of musical entertainment only the Boston Pops can provide.
I find it difficult to believe there were SEVENTEEN previous conductors of the Boston Pops before Arthur Fiedler. Artie was the first American born conductor to lead the orchestra (from 1930 to 1979). He is credited with moving the orchestra from light classical music into the world of pop culture and music. He organized the first free concerts on the Charles River Esplanade that led to Boston’s now famous Fourth of July concert. And the Pops became the most recorded orchestra in history under Fiedler.
Along came John Williams (1980-1993) to succeed Arthur Fielder, and garnered FIFTY Academy Award nominations. He remains the most nominated living person in Academy history! Under Williams, the Pops traveled extensively, including their first trips to Japan.
Fast forward to today, Keith Lockhart (1995-present) has led more than 1800 Boston Pops concerts. He has broadened the orchestra’s reach with 78 televisions shows, 42 national concerts, and four overseas concert tours. Along with increased touring, Lockhart has earned the orchestra’s first Grammy nominations, and first major network national broadcast of the July 4th Spectacular that we see each year on the Fourth.
The program will be the same both nights, fireworks only on the 4th. Along with the guest performers, the Pops will pay tribute to Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), as part of a celebration making the centennial of his birth. Rita Moreno will make a special appearance each night in his honor. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film adaptation of West Side Story by Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Ms. Moreno is one of only TWELVE artists who have won all four major American entertainment awards, an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy.
The Tanglewood Festival Chorus will also perform, along with a 20 minute fireworks spectacular on the Charles River. The program will be broadcast on Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Radio, and Bloomberg.com. The host for the evening will be Alix Steel. Of note, all of the special guests are female performers. And we have all watched this show on our home TV’s for decades, when Arthur Fiedler first made it a “must see” event.
Often described as one of the best 4th of July celebrations:
This historic American city’s display is renowned for its accompaniment—live music performed by the legendary Boston Pops Orchestra, which features—yes—real cannon fire. The fireworks are nothing to sneeze at, either—an impressive array of pyrotechnics are shot from barges along the Charles River.
Where to watch: Home base is the DCR Hatch Shell, an outdoor band shell where the Pops perform along the Charles. You can also get killer views from the Harvard and Longfellow Bridges, or from anywhere along the three-mile Esplanade.So, look for me on TV. There will only be half a million people attending each night. I will be the one wearing red, white and blue!!! But an adult-long dream comes true, in Boston, I can’t wait!