Boston Pops Orchestra

Boston Pops Orchestra

In 1881, Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, wrote of his wish to present in Boston "concerts of a lighter kind of music." The first Boston Pops concert in 1885 represented the fulfillment of his dream.

In 1972 Leroy Anderson reviewed the musical history of the Boston Pops from his then perspective of 48 years of hearing Boston Pops concerts, including those with Alfredo Cassella, Fiedler's predecesor. He was quick to credit Fiedler for the tremendous growth in the Boston Pops appeal. "Before he arrived, nothing was played that had been written after the turn of the century - it was mostly a matter of Rossini overtures and things of that nature. Fiedler came in and started to play pop tunes. He had a problem getting material, because these things were simply not written for symphony orchestra. But he started varying the programs enormously, playing Gershwin instead, and show tunes. And when I came along with my things, they were exactly what he wanted.

"He went into lighter things - but he also went into heavier material as well. For years, the Pops had never played a full concerto; it was regarded as just too long. But now Fiedler insists on it. We were down in Miami Beach a couple of years ago and he scheduled a Mozart piano concerto. The audience sat attentively through the whole thing. In the old days you might have thrown in the first movement of the Grieg concerto, or something like that, but here they were with Mozart."

"Of course, he finished up the whole concert with a Beatles tune, and the Theme from 'Exodus,' and 'The Stars and Stripes Forever,' and the audience really whooped it up then ... but they'd loved all of it. It's less that he's made Pops heavier or lighter than that he's stretched it, in all directions. There's this greater variety: when Fiedler gets through, everybody goes home happy, because everybody's found something to enjoy,"

Arthur Fiedler led the orchestra for 50 years and defined its role in popular American culture. Included in that legacy was the start of the Pops' proud and illustrious recording history, the introduction of the orchestra to a nationwide television audience through the PBS series Evening at Pops, and the creation of the orchestra's free outdoor Esplanade Concerts, which took place on the banks of the Charles River. First held in 1929, the free concerts are more popular now than ever; the Boston Pops July 4th celebration in 1998 drew a record crowd of over 500,000 people and it now stands as a national Independence Day tradition.

Following Fiedler's death in July 1979, Boston Pops Associate Conductor Harry Ellis Dickson and a number of guest conductors led the orchestra until John Williams was appointed conductor in January 1980. Mr. Williams stepped down as conductor in December 1993 and now holds the title of laureate conductor. Keith Lockhart became the twentieth conductor of the Boston Pops in February 1995, expanding the orchestra's touring with annual trips prior to the Christmas holiday.