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Tiny Story: Boston Pops

Hatch Shell

 

The Boston Pops was founded in 1885 as an extension of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Originally called the “Promenade Concerts” and informally as the “Popular Concerts,” the Pops were intended to provide year-round employment to local musicians while entertaining audiences with the most popular music of the day.

In 1927, Boston Symphony violist and conductor Arthur Fiedler developed the idea of making the Pops more accessible to the Boston public. After two years of fundraising, Fiedler hosted the first free Esplanade Concert on July 4, 1929, at a temporary venue along the banks of the Charles River. The Boston Symphony contracted Fiedler to conduct the Pops concerts for another three years—but he ended up doing so for an additional five decades. Since 1941, the concert has been held at the Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell, an outdoor Art Deco-style acoustic auditorium. Hatch Shell has been renovated several times since its construction, most recently in a $2.4 million project to modernize the acoustic technology and repair its historic frame.

The Pops Fourth of July celebration became one of Boston’s most beloved traditions in the decades following the 1929 concert. After the introduction of fireworks for the grand finale in 1974, the show became a true summer icon, both in Boston and nationwide. In 1976, the concert made the Guinness Book of World Records for entertaining the largest audience in the history of orchestral concerts, drawing more than 400,000 attendees. From 1974-2016 the concert was funded and produced by David Mugar’s Boston 4 Celebrations foundation, which, in partnership with CBS, broadcasted the event to millions as a primetime network special. The Boston Pops organization has managed the event since 2016. The Pops self-produced the Fireworks Spectacular for the first time in 2017.

Since its inauguration in 1929, the Pops Fourth of July Concert has been proudly hosted annually, with no exceptions. A live performance on the Charles River Esplanade will not take place this year due to health concerns related to COVID-19. This year’s program, A Boston Pops Salute to Our Heroes, airs at 8-11 PM EDT on Saturday, July 4 on Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg TV, and Boston’s Channel 7 WHDH. The show will pay tribute to frontline workers in all fields. The pre-recorded broadcast will both feature new music from the Pops and highlight favorite moments from previous concerts, with performances by recent headliners Melissa Etheridge, Leslie Odom Jr., and many more, as well as Independence Day traditions like Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture.

For more information on the Pops, please visit the Boston Pops July 4th website.

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