Jottings: A colorful conductor
It is always a treat to watch the Fourth of July celebrations on our local Public Broadcasting Station. And, this year we definitely enjoyed it, as so many of the neighborhood fireworks displays were canceled due to the extreme fire danger.
To me, this special night meant one thing: Arthur Fielder and the Boston Pops Orchestra. And the final selection, the 1812 Overture with the loud boom of the cannons, was always the perfect climax. They could do this from the Charles River in Boston as they were performing outside. I think Conductor Fielder especially enjoyed this program, as he loved the drama. He has been criticized for "commercializing" the orchestra, but the Pops became known all over the world under his leadership and showmanship.
While I was a college student in Seattle, I had student season tickets to the Seattle Symphony. It was a celebration of their 50th year, and there were special things happening at these performances. Since they had not named a resident conductor, they were having guest conductors throughout the season.
My friends and I were told to arrive early to the first concert as there were many special activities for this opening season. They were right … it was absolutely fabulous. Women came in beautiful gowns, dressed in fashionable, gorgeous cocktail dresses, with their escorts properly attired in tuxedos. The street in front of the theater was closed as people congregated to watch the festivities.
After a half hour of this, we were beginning to wonder when we would be admitted to our seats. All of a sudden, we heard a commotion and a great deal of noise. Horns were honking, sirens were blasting, cymbals were clashing, and a trumpet was blaring. It was the arrival of the guest conductor for the evening: Arthur Fielder, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.
He arrived in a big, beautiful, bright red, open-air, fire truck!! And, it was a ladder truck with the Maestro, dressed in formal evening attire and his beautiful snow white hair blowing and a smile on his face! It was like he was conducting the assembled crowd around him. And, indeed, he was in charge. Every eye in the crowd was on him and the cheering and noise was infectious. Of course, the concert was wonderful; the whole evening was special.
We knew, in reading about him, that he loved fire stations and fire engines as he visited many in the Boston area. But, we never dreamed he would use a firetruck for transportation to his concert. But what an entrance he made!
The Boston Pops has been recorded more than any symphony orchestra. The Pops recorded almost all of the Broadway Musicals of that time period. The Conductor's program selection always included popular music that the audience could relate to … and in some cases, hum, or sing along ... and people often did.
The Boston Pops became the country's Symphony Orchestra, nurtured by the performances that were televised. AND, their July 4 Independence Day Concert was absolutely one of the best to stir the patriotism in your soul. That concert always ended with the 1812 Overture, the blast of the cannons, fireworks exploding over the Charles River and tears on the faces of the viewing crowd. It was very emotional and we all loved it.
Marlene O'Brien is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.