Keith Lockhart stands to attention on a cold and rainy day as music erupts at the motion of his wrist. The sound becomes complete with harmonies as a timeless classical orchestra echoes through the Boston metro area.
Fans crowded into the Boston Common Sunday, September 26, to hear the Boston Pops perform live. Celebrating their 125th anniversary, a free concert was held encouraging fans, new and old, to hear them play.
Bostonians of all ages sat in the Common with blankets and beach chairs to listen to what is one of the most recognizable ensembles of our time. However, what was most surprising was the large number of younger fans who came out to the concert. Of course, the younger children were in no doubt dragged to the event by their parents, who may have promised it to be a good time, but a vast majority were teenagers, such as freshman Elizabeth Martin, who grew up listening to the Boston Pops. “I just love it. They are great at what they do,” Martin said. Many shared the feeling.
Founded in 1885, the Boston Pops started as a subsection of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Because they are a symphony without the first chair players, those picked as the “most talented”, the ensemble is considered a “Pops” orchestra and alas the name the “Boston Pops” is created. Their popularity didn’t come about just because of their ability to play instruments well, but for their wide genre of music. Sunday began with the Star Spangled Banner and classical pieces, but the kicker of the show was their famous rendition of Sleigh Ride by composer Leroy Anderson. Throwing snow into the crowd, along with sound effects, added touches to the concert. Although it is only September, an exception had to be made due to the song being their most popular work back when Arthur Fiedler famously conducted. His production of Sleigh Ride made the piece a trademark song, and a number that is always performed at their concerts despite its holiday theme.
They then continued to perform contemporary pieces, including music from the Star Wars and Harry Potter films as a tribute to John Williams, the award-winning composer who took over after Fiedler passed away. The addition of Williams’ work makes them ultimately more relatable to their audience, especially to the younger generation.
“It’s always better to be here, I feel like you are more a part of it,” said couple Chuck and Erica Wilcox, commenting on the difference between listening to recordings and listening to a live band. The same can be said for many who enjoy the recordings, but prefer the overall atmosphere the Pops bring to their performances. Contemporary vibes are what make the Boston Pops so enjoyable compared to the drone of other classical symphonies.
By the middle of the concert a tribute was performed for the Kennedy Brothers by actor Jeremiah Kissel, who narrated their legacy while a score played in the background. He took quotes from the brothers themselves and at one point described them as “three American brothers inspiring the best in us all.” Although the speech was well thought out, it did seem rather lengthy in the process, but nonetheless a moving effort complete with a standing ovation. Popular hits from the seventies as well as Sweet Caroline and American Pie started to close the show. This seemed to be one of their most anticipated parts of the show as many were looking forward to it.
“Classical music and 70s pop sound like things that don’t go together” said Eve Garrick, of Somerville. This is what is so intriguing about the Boston Pops: their ability to bring the widest variety of music to the widest variety of people. However, what was least expected was an added twist, choosing to play the Dropkick Murphys’ Shipping Up To Boston as one of their final pieces. As seen on Sunday, the Boston Pops continue to lead on their legacy, even if that means playing Christmas music in the dead of Fall.