“The Boston Pops performs the best music of the past and present, appealing to the widest possible audience with a broad spectrum of styles, from jazz to pop, indie rock to big band, film music to the great American songbook, and Broadway to classical, making it the perfect orchestra for people who don’t know they like orchestras!” —Keith Lockhart
Affectionately known as “America’s Orchestra,” the Boston Pops is the most recorded and arguably the most beloved orchestra in the country, beginning with the establishment of the modern-era Pops by Arthur Fiedler and continuing through the innovations introduced by John Williams and the new-millennium Pops spearheaded by Keith Lockhart. In 2010, with the 125th anniversary season, the Boston Pops reached a landmark moment in a remarkable history that began with its founding in 1885. Fours years earlier, in 1881, Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra, calling its establishment “the dream of my life.” From the start he intended to present, in the warmer months, concerts of light classics and the popular music of the day. From a practical perspective, Higginson realized that these “lighter” performances would provide year-round employment for his musicians. The “Promenade Concerts,” as they were originally called, were soon informally known as “Popular Concerts,” which eventually became shortened to “Pops,” the name officially adopted in 1900.
Some people may not realize that there were seventeen Pops conductors, beginning with the German Adolf Neuendorff, who preceded Arthur Fiedler, the first American-born musician to lead the orchestra. In his nearly 50-year tenure as Pops Conductor (1930-1979), Arthur Fiedler established the Boston Pops as a national icon. He moved the Pops beyond its origins in light-classical music into the world of pop culture, showcasing the popular artists of the day as well as the work of young American composers and arrangers. Mr. Fiedler organized the first free outdoor orchestral concerts on the Charles River Esplanade that led to Boston’s now-famous Fourth of July concert, established the Pops as the most recorded orchestra in history—including the bestseller “Jalousie”—and introduced the Evening at Pops television series, bringing the orchestra into the living rooms of countless Americans.
When John Williams (1980-1993) succeeded Arthur Fiedler, he was the most highly acclaimed composer in Hollywood, and today, with 45 Academy Award nominations, he is the most-nominated living person in Academy history. With the Pops, Mr. Williams continued the orchestra’s prolific recording tradition with a series of bestselling albums for the Philips and Sony Classical labels, broadened and updated the Pops repertoire—commissioning new compositions and introducing new arrangements of Boston Pops classics—and entertained audiences with live orchestral accompaniment to film clips of memorable movie scenes, many of which featured iconic music from his own film scores. He traveled extensively with the Pops both nationally and internationally, leading the Pops on its first tours to Japan. Mr. Williams also brought a bit of Hollywood to the Pops stage, with special appearances by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Frank Langella, not to mention Darth Vader, R2D2, and C3PO.
Having led more than 1,300 Boston Pops concerts, Keith Lockhart (1995-present) is now in his eighteenth season as Boston Pops Conductor. In response to the ever-diversifying trends in music, Keith Lockhart has taken the Pops in new directions, creating programs that reach out to a broader and younger audience by presenting artists—both established performers and rising stars—from virtually every corner of the entertainment world, all the while maintaining the Pops’ appeal to its core audience. He has made 73 television shows, led 35 national and four overseas tours with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and recorded eleven albums. Mr. Lockhart’s tenure has been marked by a dramatic increase in touring, the orchestra’s first Grammy nominations, the first major network national broadcast (on CBS Television) of the Fourth-of-July spectacular from the Esplanade, and the release of the Boston Pops’ first self-produced and self-distributed recordings. He has also led the Boston Pops at several high profile sports events, including the pre-game show of NFL’s Super Bowl XXXVI with the New England Patriots, the national anthem for the 2008 NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics, and the opening game of MLB’s 2007 World Series, at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox.