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The Boston Pops Orchestra was founded in 1885 as a subsection of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), founded four years earlier. Careful examination of the rosters of “pops" or “Festival" orchestras, which are associated with a co-resident symphony orchestra in the same community, shows that the principal players of a “pops" ensemble usually hold the post of assistant or associate principal of the “parent" ensemble. In general parlance, the Boston Pops is described as: “The Boston Symphony minus the first-chair players." This “elite core” of BSO musicians constitute a separate subsection of the BSO, and perform alongside the Pops as the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, a 12-member ensemble founded in 1964. These arrangements, and a similar one with the Tanglewoodmarker Festival, provide year-round employment for the musicians.

Other cities have founded their own "pops" orchestras, but the Boston Pops remains the most well-known.

History of the Pops

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 Boston Pops Orchestra was founded to present this kind of music to the public, with the first concert performed in 1885. Called the "Promenade Concerts" until 1900, these performances combined light classical music, tunes from the current hits of the musical theater, and an occasional novelty number. Allowing for some changes of taste over the course of a century, the early programs were remarkably similar to the Boston Pops programs of today.

The Boston Pops Orchestra did not adopt its own official conductor until 1930, when Arthur Fiedler began a fifty-year tenure as the Pops conductor. Fiedler's career as the conductor of the Pops brought worldwide acclaim to the orchestra. He was unhappy with the reputation of classical music as being solely for elite, aristocrat, upper-class audiences. Fiedler made efforts to bring classical music to wider audiences. He instituted a series of free concerts at the Hatch Shellmarker on the Esplanade, a public park beside the Charles River. Along with his insistence that the Pops Orchestra would play popular music as well as well-known classical pieces, Fiedler opened up a new niche in popular culture that popularized classical music.

Under his direction, the Boston Pops allegedly made more commercially available recordings than any other orchestra in the world, with total sales of albums, singles, tapes, and cassettes exceeding $50 million. The orchestra's first recordings were made in July 1935 for RCA Victor, including the first complete recording of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Of the many musical pieces produced over the years, the Pops' most famous and popular work is Fiedler's production of Leroy Anderson's composition "Sleigh Ride". They made their first high fidelity recording on June 20, 1947, of Gaité Parisienne (based on the music of Jacques Offenbach), and recorded the same music seven years later in stereophonic sound, their first venture in multitrack recording.

Fiedler is most widely remembered in Boston for having begun the annual tradition of the Fourth of July Pops concert and fireworks display on the Esplanade, one of the best-attended Independence Day celebrations in the country with regular estimated attendance of 200,000–500,000 people. (This event is organized by Boston's Fourth of July celebration under the leadership of David Mugar.) Also during Fiedler's tenure, the Pops and local public television station WGBHmarker developed a series of weekly televised broadcasts recorded during the Pops' regular season in Symphony Hallmarker, Evening at Pops.

A list of artist-performers during this period were world-class soloists and contain some historic and legendary names who to performed on the many Boston Pops tours that went to 100's of cities across the country throughout the 1950's through the 70's.

After Fiedler's death in 1979, the conductorship of the Boston Pops was taken over by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams in 1980. Williams continued the Pops' tradition of bringing classical music to a wider audiences, initiating the annual "Pops-on-the-Heights" concerts at Boston Collegemarker and adding his own considerable library of well-known movie soundtracks (including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies) to its repertoire.

Keith Lockhart assumed the post of principal Pops conductor in 1995. Lockhart continues to conduct the Boston Pops today, adding a touch of flamboyance and a flair for the dramatic to his performances. Williams remains the Laureate Conductor of the Pops and conducts a week of Pops concerts most years. Lockhart brought in numerous pop-music acts to play with the orchestra, including Ben Folds, Rockapella, Guster, My Morning Jacket, Aimee Mann and Elvis Costello.


POPSearch is the Boston Pops' nationwide talent competition that offers amateur singers the chance to perform with the orchestra at Boston's Fourth of July Extravaganza, as well as on the orchestra's national tour. The winner also receives a cash prize. The American Idol-style competition has expanded into a nationwide contest through video submissions on YouTube and voting through[29214].

The POPSearch 2007 grand champion Maria Perry won $5,000 and performed with the Boston Pops on July 3 and 4 in the annual July 4 Extravaganza seen by a live audience of almost a half-million people on the Charles River Esplanade and several million more on WBZ-TVmarker.

Frances Botelho-Hoeg, an elementary school principal from Kingston, Massachusettsmarker, was knocked out in the second round of the inaugural POPSearch, but returned in 2005 to sweep the competition.

Tracy Silva, a mother of two from Taunton, Mass.marker, and van driver for special needs children, won the inaugural POPSearch contest in 2004.

High School Sing-Off

In early spring of 2008, Keith Lockhart announced "Boston Pops High School Sing-Off A Best of Broadway Challenge," the first-ever Boston Pops musical theater competition for Massachusetts High school students. Students from high schools throughout the state of Massachusetts were encouraged to submit audition videos of musical theater vocal works for solo, duet, trio, quartet, or quintet to the Boston Pops before May 9, 2008. The winner was featured in the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert on the Charles River Esplanade.

Music Directors and Conductors

  • 1885; 1887–1889 Adolf Neuendorff
  • 1886 John C. Mullaly
  • 1887 Wilhelm Rietzel
  • 1888 Franz Kneisel
  • 1891 Eugen Gurenberg
  • 1891–1894; 1903–1907 Timothée Adamowski
  • 1895 Antonio de Novellis
  • 1896–1902; 1906–1907 Max Zach
  • 1897 Leo Schulz
  • 1908–1909 Arthur Kautzenbach
  • 1909–1917 André Maquarre
  • 1913–1916 Otto Urach
  • 1913–1916 Clement Lenom
  • 1915–1916 Ernst Schmidt
  • 1916 Josef Pasternack
  • 1917–1926 Agide Jacchia
  • 1927–1929 Alfredo Casella
  • 1930–1979 Arthur Fiedler
  • 1980–1995 John Williams (Laureate Conductor, 1994–present)
  • 2002–2006 Bruce Hangen (Principal Guest Conductor)
  • 1995–Present Keith Lockhart

See also

External links

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