Other cities have founded their own "pops" orchestras, but the Boston Pops remains the most well-known.
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, aristocratic, upper-class audiences. Fiedler made efforts to bring classical music to wider audiences. He instituted a series of free concerts at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, a riverside public park along the Charles River. Along with his insistence that the Pops Orchestra would play popular music alongside well-known classical pieces, Fiedler opened up a new niche in popular culture that encouraged popularization of 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 Gaite 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's respectful easy-listening arrangements on Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Play the Beatles, released in 1971, opened many eyes to the musical qualities of Lennon and McCartney.
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 WGBH developed a series of weekly televised broadcasts recorded during the Pops' regular season in Symphony Hall, Evening at Pops.
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 College 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 $5,000 cash prize. In its third year, the American Idol-style competition has expanded into a nationwide contest through video submissions on YouTube and voting through BostonPops.org Deadline for applications is May 23. This year's competition opened on May 9, and the winner was announced at the Boston Pops concert on June 28. For more information, visit bostonpops.org
The POPSearch process
Singers may audition for POPSearch 2007 in any one of three ways: by posting a two-minute performance video on YouTube's POPSearch page ; by sending a two-minute audition video (DVD, mini-DVD, or VHS tape) to POPSearch, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115; or by coming to Symphony Hall on May 18 or 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to tape a live audition. (There will be no judges present, and all participants will be judged solely on the merit of their videotaped performance.) All entrants must be 18 years or older and will be required to sing unaccompanied in the initial round. The deadline for submitting a video audition is May 23 by midnight. For complete competition details and an application, visit BostonPops.org
On May 29, the top 16 POPSearch contestants selected by conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops artistic staff will be announced, and their video auditions will be posted online at www.YouTube.com/group/popsearch07 From May 29 to June 4, music lovers from across the country will be invited to vote for their six favorite POPSearch contestants at bostonpops.org. Online voting results will be combined with votes from Keith Lockhart, a panel of judges, members of the Boston Pops, and the Symphony Hall audience at a special POPSearch concert hosted by Keith Lockhart at 7 p.m. on June 4. This concert will feature the top 16 contestants performing with the Boston Pops rhythm section, from which six semi-finalists will be chosen for the next round.
From June 4 until June 12, videos of the six semi-finalists will be posted at www.YouTube.com/group/popsearch07 , and music lovers nationwide will vote for the three POPSearch finalists at bostonpops.org. Online voting results will again be combined with live voting results from Symphony Hall when the six semi-finalists return to the stage for the second POPSearch concert at 8 p.m. on June 12. The six semi-finalists will perform with the Boston Pops rhythm section that evening to determine which three finalists will proceed to the final round of the competition.
From June 12 until June 28, videos of the three finalists will be posted at www.YouTube.com/group/popsearch07 and the national audience will cast their votes for the POPSearch 2007 grand prize winner at bostonpops.org. The final round of POPSearch will take place during the June 28 Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall, when the three finalists will perform with the entire orchestra for the first time in the competition. Online votes and live voting at Symphony Hall will be combined to determine the POPSearch 2007 winner, who will be announced live as well as to the press and on YouTube.com immediately following the concert.
The POPSearch 2007 grand champion 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-TV.
Now transitioning into an ambitious national competition, POPSearch is building on a precedent of successful competitions in 2004 and 2005. Hundreds of singers lined up outside Symphony Hall both years for the competition's live auditions, bringing together a diverse array of amateur talent and drawing the community into its beloved Boston Pops like never before.
Previous POPSearch finalists have come from all walks of life - bank vice-president to bartender to van driver for special needs children - and have specialized in such diverse genres as opera, gospel, and jazz.
Tracy Silva, a mother of two from Taunton, Mass., and van driver for special needs children, won the inaugural POPSearch contest in 2004, wowing judges with her soulful rendition of "Fools Fall in Love" from the hit Broadway musical Smokey Joe's Cafe. She beat out more than 700 contestants from across New England for the chance to perform "Your Daddy's Son" from the musical Ragtime with Mr. Lockhart and the Boston Pops at the orchestra's marquis event: the annual July 4 Extravaganza. Ms. Silva has since sung with the Pops as a guest soloist three times in 2005 and 2006, in addition to performances at Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots games, at the Democratic National Convention, and as the opening act for Broadway star Maureen McGovern.
Frances Botelho-Hoeg, an elementary school principal from Kingston, Massachusetts, was knocked out in the second round of the inaugural POPSearch, but returned in 2005 to sweep the competition by singing "When You're Good to Mama" from the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Chicago. Ms. Botelho-Hoeg performed with the Pops on July 4 and traveled with America's Orchestra that summer on a national tour that included stops in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Ms. Botelho-Hoeg has since performed with the Plymouth Symphony and at such local events as Bunker Hill Community College's commencement.
Finalists in 2004 and 2005 included Wayne Hobbs, a bank vice-president from Vergennes, Vermont (2004); Ellen O'Brien, a sales representative from Winthrop, Massachusetts (2005); Kathy Porter, a marketing manager and grandmother from Braintree, Massachusetts (2004); and Joseph Rucker Jr., a social worker from Brockton, Massachusetts (2005).
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, slated for the Pops' spring season in May and June of 2008. Students from high schools throughout the state of Massachusetts, working closely with their music and drama teachers, 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 live portion of the competition took place during four concerts in June 2008, at which time the contestants had their first chance to sing accompanied by the orchestra at a Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall. The winner was featured in the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert on the Charles River Esplanade. "The 'Boston Pops High School Sing-Off' is a project that is near and dear to my heart, as I have been a musical theater fan since I was a kid in junior high school," said Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. "This is a great opportunity for some wonderfully talented hard-working young singers to share their music with a broad audience and show the world just how important music is to their lives. All of us at the Pops welcome the chance to share our love of this great music and to bring students from high schools across the state to experience the Boston Pops. I hope that all of the talented young high school singers throughout Massachusetts will seriously consider auditioning for this competition."
The Boston Pops High School Sing-Off began with a round of taped auditions to be submitted any Keith Lockhart and the Pops management team evaluated the taped auditions and chose up to 20 contestants to compete in the competition.
The six semifinalists competed three at a time, accompanied by the Boston Pops, during the June 17 and 18 concerts, resulting in the selection of three finalists who competed in the final round during the July 1 Boston Pops concert, accompanied by the orchestra. The winner performed with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra on July 3 and at the 2008 Fireworks Spectacular on July 4, which was broadcast live on Boston area television.
Here is the list of the top twenty finalists and the selections they sang:
Soloists: Lauren Boltz, 17, from Sturbridge, a student at Tantasqua Regional High School, sang "Easy As Life" from the Broadway version of Aida.
Molly Evans, 17, from Needham, a student at Walnut Hill School where she majors in Theatre, sang "Broadway Baby" from Follies.
Olivia Buckley, 17, from Wellesley, a student at Wellesley High School, sang "Forget About the Boy" from Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Robert Cadwallader, 18, from Princeton, a student, at Wachusett Regional High School, sang "Giants in the Sky" from Into the Woods.
Caroline Cronin, 16, from Norwell, a student at Norwell High School, sang "Astonishing" from Little Women.
Katy Early, 15, from Boxborough, a freshman at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School sang "Out of My Dreams" from Oklahoma!.
Bonita Ho, 16, from Cambridge, a senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School sang "Feed Me" from Little Shop of Horrors.
Mariah MacFarlane, 16, from Duxbury, a student at Duxbury High School, sang "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard.
Katie Mayhew, 16, from West Tisbury, a student at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, sang "Being Alive" from Company.
Kelly McCue, 18, from Lancaster, a student at Nashoba Regional High School, sang "Love Look Away" from Flower Drum Song.
Mark Nimar, 15, from Concord, a student at Concord-Carlisle High School, sang "She Loves Me" from She Loves Me.
Travis Nunes, 18, from New Bedford, a student at New Bedford High School, sang "Feeling Good" from The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.
Samara Oster, 17, from Brookline, a student at Milton Academy, sang “Your Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime.
Emily Palena, 17, from Brookline, a student at Brookline High School, sang "On My Own" from Les Misérables.
Christina Rodriguez, 18, from West Roxbury, a student at the Boston Arts Academy, sang "Don’t Cry for me Argentina" from Evita.
Andrew Rowe, 17, from West Roxbury, a senior at Brookline High School, sang "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma!.
Javelle Stephens, 17, from New Bedford, a student at New Bedford High School, sang "Run and Tell That" from Hairspray.
Duets Leslie Jamison, 18, from Topsfield and Ashley Walker, 17, from Danvers, both students at Lexington Christian Academy sang "What is This Feeling?" from Wicked.
Caitlin Teely, 17, from North Egremont and Harry Wilken, 15, from Stockbrige, both students at Monument Mountain Regional High School sang "A Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot.
Trio Emma Irvine, 15, from Easton, and Nicholas Maggio, 15, and Lauren Maggio, 18, from North Easton, all students at Oliver Ames High School sang "A Step Too Far" from Aida.
Quintet Adam Randall, 17, Meghan Ryan, 15, and Michael Ryan, 17, all from Braintree and students at Braintree High School, joined with Brianna Shetler, 15, and Kirsten Shetler, 17, of Quincy and students at North Quincy High School to sing "One Day More" from Les Misérables.
6 Finalists: Olivia Buckley
The Quintet: Adam Randall, Meghan Ryan, Michael Ryan, Brianna Shetler, and Kirsten Shetler
3 Finalists: Samara Oster
The Quintet: Adam Randall, Meghan Ryan, Micheal Ryan, Brianna Shetler, and Kirsten Shetler
Winner 2008: Katie Mayhew of Martha's Vineyard. For free downloads of her performance videos or Katie's music or links to her performance on the Esplanade visit www.katiemayhew.com. It only has a link to her esplanade show cause WBZ owns that. It is a non commercial site.