Growing up, in the Boston area, there were several constants in my life. My mom always spoke Italian when she got excited. I I didn't know a word of Italian. My dad loved to go sailing more than life itself. Arthur Fiedler was always, and I mean always!, the conductor of the Boston Pops.
There was one thing about the Pops that I always remember; they had a concert each year on the Fourth of July. They held it at the band shell down on the Esplanade, and it always culminated with the playing of the "1812 Overture" and the fireworks that accompanied it. From the local Army Reserve, they also got howitzer cannons, and they shot them off in time with the music. It made for quite the spectacular climax.
And yet, I had never seen it.
My family spent every summer down on Martha's Vineyard Island. We'd had a cottage there since the year before I was born; and I'd spent every summer of my childhood there. So, for the Fourth of July, we went over to the neighboring town of Edgartown and saw their parade and fireworks.
Then came my sixteenth summer, and on July 10th we heard the sad news: Arthur Fiedler had passed away. Despite not being related, I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss. One of the local TV stations did a very moving tribute to him; it was the highest rated local program in the history of the Boston area. And then we heard the news: the Pops would do a concert on the Esplanade as their tribute to their conductor.
Yet, it was not enough to give a mere concert; no, they were determined to re-create Fiedler's finest concert. They even went so far as to try and get some of the original audience members to come to it. I remember that they had a photograph that had been taken that night blown up and shown on the local TV channels. They were looking for two women who had been right down front for that previous concert.
Well, they found them. It turned out, they were mother and daughter, and the daughter was blind. She had so enjoyed the concert; she even said that she'd seen it through her mother's eyes. So, they were the guests of honor at the concert. And, for the first time, it was televised. Here, at last, was my chance to see the Boston Pops perform at the band shell.
The night of the concert, we all gathered around the TV to watch. I didn't know a lot of the music, but it was all very good, and I found the finale quite touching. The conductor started the orchestra playing the "1812 Overture" and then left the stage. The musicians finished it on their own; their final tribute to their fallen leader, complete with fireworks and cannon fire.
Since that time, there have been other leaders of the Boston Pops; most notably John Williams, and many more Fourth of July concerts on the Esplanade. These days, they are routinely televised on A&E, or some such channel. And yet, none of them quite measure up to the... energy, the passion of that one special concert.
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Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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