Thursday, October 05, 2006

ARTHUR FIEDLER & the POPS…1950 & 1964

I was twice privileged to see Arthur Fiedler conduct the famous Boston “Pops”. The first time was when I was 17 and I had the best of all worlds that night. I was on a date with a college boy and we were going to the Boston Symphony Hall.

In those days the Hall had two faces. During the Symphony Season it would be very conventional but as soon as it was over the workmen would arrive. They would take out all the seats and risers and pack in small tables and chairs, reminiscent of the type that you might see at a curbside Bistro.

The 65th Boston Pops season had begun and we were among the hundreds of fans who were there. My date had ordered for us and I remember that we had a carafe of sauterne on the table and two teeny wine glasses. I guess there were “munchies” too but I don’t remember.

I do recall when Arthur Fiedler came to the podium. There was a roar of approval from the audience until the popular maestro took up his baton. Then the lights were lowered, the talking ceased and the concert began. It was a typical “Pops” evening filled with semi-classical music and a few lighter pieces.

What really impressed me was that, at the end of each number, instead of going offstage, Arthur Fiedler took a seat up front on the stage and beamed at us, while waitresses collected orders for beer, wine, or lemonade. Then he would stand up ...our signal to stop talking...and the next segment would begin.

The evening ended with a standing ovation and a loud cry for “more”. The maestro didn’t let us down and his final encore was a rousing rendition of “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”.

My second “Fiedler adventure” was again in Boston and this time at the famous Hatch Shell. This is an outdoor concert venue adjacent to the Charles River. The performances are free and there is no formal seating…just a large expanse of grass where the audience spreads blankets and sets up portable chairs.

This time it was 1964 and my husband, some friends and I had spent the day sight-seeing in Boston. We were thrilled to have chosen a day when the Boston Pops would be performing. Once again I was able to listen to and watch the amazing performance of Arthur Fiedler. He truly held the audience in his hands.

As I recall it, the Shell was in need of repairs and it wasn’t until the Pops started their famous 4th of July concerts that much was done for that. In 1991 the Shell underwent a final significant renovation. It is a “must-see” on any Boston trip and is the site of a memorial to Arthur Fiedler...a fitting tribute to the first permanent conductor of the Pops.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have owned a couple of the orchestra's record albums over the years. I certainly think that Arthur Fiedler can be attributed to popularizing the symphony orchestra in America.

As I recall, there was a bit of a controversy when the powers to be chose John Williams as his replacement. But I was a huge fan of John Williams so I was personally elated.

The current conductor, Kieth Lockhart, does an excellent job but he just looks too young to be standing up there in front of such a grand orchestra with such a rich history. :)

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fiedler was magnificient! Although I grew up in the Boston area, I never had the opportunity to see him perform live.
I did attend the BSO though when Segi Ozawa was conducting....spectacular!
And nothing compares to a Fourth at the Hatch Shell....That 1812 Overture does me in every time.

5:07 PM  
Blogger gawilli said...

Not very many things are more wonderful than live music for me. Music in general, most any kind, just fills my soul. My mom and dad are responsible for passing that love along to me with the many albums, in those days 78's, that were in our living room. In the 60's our community did musical productions in the summer, such as Oklahoma, Carousel, Flower Drum Song and more. Many times, when I was supposed to be singing in the chorus, I would be standing with my mouth open just soaking up the sounds of the pit orchestra and voices. It was great.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginnie - Your experiences sound amazing!

I can't say I have anything similar, so it was fun to live vicariously through your stories!

12:33 PM  

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