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Pops on the Esplanade Continues

To Entertain Boston Audiences

By Joel Rosenberg

America, the Beautiful, had another birthday Sunday, and she didn’t look a day over 210. To celebrate here in Boston, hundreds of thousands of people once again flooded the streets to listen to the Pops and see the pyromusical fireworks extravaganza.

The Esplanade opened at 6 a.m. for the truly hard-core patriots, who then proceeded to do a whole lot of waiting in 100-degree heat. It wasn’t until 7:55 p.m that several $24 million F-18 “Hornet” Strike Fighters buzzed the Charles to show-off how we keep this Land of Liberty secure. Boston was going to attempt to get into the Guiness Book of World Records for the “Largest Aerial Banner Flown” by trailing a chopper with a 9945-square-foot American Flag, but the banner was unfortunately shredded in a display for the media on June 2.

At 8 p.m., the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra took the stage for the twenty-ninth “Pops Goes the Fourth” concert, led by Conductor Keith Lockhart. The Tanglewoods Festival Chorus accompanied the Pops in the “Star Spangled Banner” to open the show, after which the Pops gave a taste of jazz by playing John Williams’ “Liberty Fanfare,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and then a swing medly that got the flag-encrusted crowd dancing. “Overture to State Fair” was then followed by “Doodletown Fifers”, accompanied by the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums.

To close the first half of the program, the group performed a new composition, “With Voices Raised”, by Ragtime authors Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The piece bridged a patriotic chorus sung by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the Boston Pops Gospel Chorus, and members of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, with patriotic quotes from legendary figures like Abigail Adams, Mother Jones, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King. Senator Ted Kennedy joined in, quoting JFK:

“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most common basic link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Trisha Yearwood was the guest artist this year. The crowd didn’t seem appreciative of the country singer come North, although spontaneous bubble-blowing from the audience during “Over the Rainbow” was an inspiring close to her set. The three participating choruses appeared again to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” described by Lockhart as the de facto anthem of African Americans. It was followed by a “Patriotic Sing-Along”, which included “America”, “America the Beautiful”, “Yankee Doodle”, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, and “God Bless America.”

Finally, the legendary Seiji Ozawa made a guest appearance to celebrate his 25th year conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra, leading the Pops in Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, complete with Army cannons firing shells over the river. Ted Kennedy returned to present Ozawa with the logbook from the USS Constitution from the year 1812, and to introduce former Red Sox pitcher Carl Yastrzemski, flanked by the evening’s two conductors in Sox jerseys (Ozawa 25, Lockhart 99). The trio sang “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” as musicians in Sox hats played and audience members waved All-Star pennants. Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” closed the live music portion of the evening as Seiji danced across the stage, his signature gray hair flopping under a Red Sox cap.

Attention then turned to the river as three tons of pyrotechnics launched from four barges to complete the third annual pyromusical, created by Boston-based Pyrotechnology, Inc. The impressive display ended rather anticlimatically. But as the crowd slowly dispersed, they took with them the memories of another celebration of freedom. It was still only 10:30 p.m., but those with hopes of an after-party had to have already been prepared--ironically, one wasn’t free to buy booze this Sunday the Fourth.