Independence Day may be the quintessential holiday here in Boston. This is when summer is officially in full swing, visitors and locals are out and about enjoying Harbor Fest activities, while the narrow, history-rich streets and alleyways of the Freedom Trail are reaching peak saturation. The rousing July 4th concerts at the Hatch Shell and the accompanying display of pyrotechnics that light up the night time sky, are the undeniable highlights of summer in this city. Some of my favorite memories involve getting to stroll the closed-down sections of notoriously traffic-clogged Storrow Drive and staking out a spot along either the Esplanade, the abandoned BU bridge, or--as a last resort--hoping for an invitation to the roof of any friend’s parents’ Back Bay townhouses. Picnic in tow, we’d wait patiently, tuning the dials on our small hand-held radios to find the Boston Pops broadcast. The highlight is always the bombastic 1812 Overture, accompanied with perfectly choreographed cannon blasts, synced in time with the orchestra and the radio broadcast--an exhilarating experience not to be missed.
But what is so special about this concert? you might be wondering. Well, for starters, maybe you haven’t heard of the Boston Pops, the institution responsible for not only bringing us these free concerts on the Esplanade every July 4th, as well as leading the charge to bring orchestral music back to the masses during the era of disposable pop culture. You might have heard of their creator, Arthur Fielder--or perhaps one of our star conductors during the 80’s and 90’s, John Williams, whose own forceful compositions (*pun alert*) provided the soundtrack to for a few films you may have heard of, like the entire Star Wars franchise, Jaws, Indiana Jones and almost all of Spielberg’s films from 1985 to the present, and even a few installments of the Harry Potter film series. So beloved is this concert, that an estimated half a million people will be laying their blankets and lawnchairs to take in the Boston Pops on the 4th, in any given year.
Sadly, according to recent reports, of all this could be coming to an end after this year. Articles in local news outlets like the Boston Globehave noted that after the retirement of supermarket heir and real estate tycoon David Mugar--the creator and financial backer of the city’s Guinness record-setting Pops spectacles--there is no one in line to take the reins for what has become one of Boston’s premier events. Mugar, having almost single-handedly created this phenomenon (with the help of conductor Arthur Fielder), has no apparent successor for the job, and at the present time, this could be your last chance to catch the Pops on the 4th! The last chance to catch the cannon fire during the 1812 Overture!
Speaking of the 1812 Overture, as patriots get all misty-eyed during its thrilling crescendo, did anybody ever wonder why Tchaikovsky’s explosive piece--which has absolutelynothingto do with American Independence, but rather, the 1812 Russian victory over Napoleon--become synonymous with 4th of July celebrations? Well, that credit goes to our own Mr. Arthur Fiedler and David Mugar, once again, who thought a little Tchaikovsky would liven up not only the 4th of July, but rekindle our interest in classical music as a whole. Judging by these crowds, it looks like it worked!