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183 11 Be­ yond the Films Con­ duc­ tor John ­ Williams Each year in ­ spring, ­ Boston’s Sym­ phony Hall under­ goes a major trans­ for- ­ ma­ tion. The rows of seats on the main floor are re­ placed with ta­ bles; the walls are ­ decked with flow­ ers and lit in cheer­ ful col­ ors. The or­ ches­ tra plays light sym­ phonic ­ pieces span­ ning from fa­ mous opera over­ tures to se­ lec­ tions from op­ er­ et­ tas, bal­ let ­ suites, ­ American ­ marches, stan­ dard songs, con­ cert ex­ tracts, and sym­ phonic ar­ range­ ments from the lat­ est Broad­ way hits. Con­ certs take place in an ea­ sy­ go­ ing, in­ for­ mal at­ mos­ phere: one can lis­ ten to the music while sip­ ping a glass of wine, drink­ ing a pint of beer, or en­ joy­ ing one of the many sand­ wiches and ­ plates of­ fered on the menu. It is the an­ nual Pops sea­ son in Bos­ ton. The con­ cert pro­ grams may be light in con­ tent, but they are solid with re­ spect to per­ for­ mance qual­ ity. In­ deed, the mem­ bers of the Bos­ ton Pops Or­ ches­ tra come from the ros­ ter of the Bos­ ton Sym­ phony, one of Amer­ ica’s top or­ ches­ tras. The Bos­ ton Pops plays in Bos­ ton each year from May ­ through June and again in De­ cem­ ber for the “Hol­ i­ day Pops” sea­ son.1 The Bos­ ton Pops Or­ ches­ tra The ­ orchestra’s mis­ sion is to ­ bridge the gap ­ between the clas­ si­ cal and the pop­ u­ lar rep­ er­ toires, and to intro­ duce the con­ cert­ go­ ing cus­ tom and the sound of a sym­ phony or­ ches­ tra to wide au­ di­ ences. ­ Founded in 1885, the Bos­ ton Pops has be­ come one of Amer­ ica’s most im­ por­ tant mu­ si­ cal in­ sti­ tu­ tions, a world 184 • Beyond the Films am­ bas­ sa­ dor of ­ American cul­ ture, and per­ haps one of the most ­ widely known or­ ches­ tras be­ cause of its ex­ ten­ sive pres­ ence on tele­ vi­ sion, radio, and in the­ record mar­ ket. In 1929, after seven­ teen Eu­ ro­ peans hold­ ing the title, for the first time an­ American-born or­ ches­ tra mem­ ber was ap­ pointed ­ conductor-in-residence: the Bos­ ton­ ian ­ thirty-five-year-old vi­ o­ lin­ ist Ar­ thur Fied­ ler (1894–1979). He would bring wide­ spread fame to the or­ ches­ tra and forge its un­ mis­ tak­ able iden­ tity; he had lead­ er­ ship, en­ thu­ siasm for pop­ u­ lar music mak­ ing, and an open, un­ prej­ u­ diced mind inter­ ested in the po­ ten­ tial value of every kind of music: “There’s noth­ ing wrong with play­ ing light music. You don’t al­ ways read Mil­ ton, Shake­ speare, and Scho­ pen­ hauer. You can enjoy Mark Twain.”2 Dur­ ing his al­ most­ fifty-year ten­ ure from 1930 to his death in 1979, he re­ in­ vented and trans­ formed the Bos­ ton Pops into what they are now: an ­ American in­ sti­ tu­ tion and per­ haps the most fa­ mous or­ ches­ tra in the world. Dur­ ing its first five ­ decades, the or­ ches­ tra was sim­ ply known as “the or­ ches­ tra of the pops con­ certs,” that is, the Bos­ ton Sym­ phony play­ ing pop­ u­ lar pro­ grams, and the or­ ches­ tra was ­ mostly a local in­ sti­ tu­ tion. In 1935 Fied­ ler ­ signed a ­ con-­ tract with RCA Vic­ tor and ­ ushered the or­ ches­ tra into the ­ record mar­ ket, launch­ ing a long se­ ries of suc­ cess­ ful re­ leases. For the oc­ ca­ sion the or­ ches­ tra was chris­ tened “Bos­ ton Pops Or­ ches­ tra.”3 Dur­ ing the years, ­ Fiedler’s Bos­ ton Pops al­ bums would sell a total of close to fifty mil­ lion cop­ ies. Fied­ ler also pi­ o­ neered the multi­ me­ dia ex­ pan­ sion. He ­ launched local live radio broad­ casts in 1952, which ex­ panded to reach na­ tional dif­ fu­ sion in 1962. In 1967 the Pops moved to tele­ vi­ sion, and from 1969 to 2004 it was fea­ tured...


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