After the longest stretch of cloudy summer days in Boston since 1903, the long-awaited sun finally beamed down across the red-white-and-blue-adorned city and all of its Fourth of July festivities on Saturday. As part of the 36th annual July 4th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, an estimated 500,000 Bostonians, tourists, MIT students, and others gathered along the Boston Esplanade, around the Hatch Shell, and across the banks of the Charles for the nationally broadcast entertainment and patriotic fun.
Highlights of the festivities were the Rozzi Fireworks (of Loveland, Ohio); Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops performing the highly anticipated 1812 Overture (complete with three live cannons, operated by a staff of nine Army personnel) along with other patriotic music; and Grammy Award-winner Neil Diamond singing the Fenway Park favorite “Sweet Caroline,” among other crowd-pleasing classics.
The activities also included an accompaniment to the national anthem by the U.S. Herald Trumpets, a civil liberties speech given by Harvard’s Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, the Air Force’s 104th Fighter Wing Flyover, an upbeat performance by the Berklee School of Music jazz quartet “Syncopation,” and a breathtaking musical performance of “The Pledge of Allegiance” by 10-year-old singer Oladunni Oladipo.
For the 8:30 p.m. concert held at the Hatch Shell, thousands of Boston Pops fans and Neil Diamond fans alike filled the grassy oval before noon. Prior to the show, however, one of Diamond’s perhaps youngest fans, local 10-year-old Olivia M. Brum was lucky enough to be one of the few to get Diamond’s autograph.
Brum waited near Diamond’s trailer backstage for over three hours, and then Diamond arrived and autographed her hand-made fluorescent green sign, embellished with a colorful display of flowers and hearts and reading “Neil Diamond Rocks.”
After the experience, Brum was “very happy and excited” and said that she looked forward to watching Diamond perform her favorite songs, which she later enjoyed that evening alongside friends and family.
During a brief pre-show interview, Robert M. Caplin, the principal bass player of Boston Pops and a part-time librarian at the MIT Dewey Library, was able to share his experiences performing for the Fourth of July show.
“The Fourth is unlike any other concert that we play. It’s intangible, incredible, and the energy is electrifying,” said Caplin. When asked about the preparation for the Pops concert, Caplin said that the group has only one rehearsal before delivering their wildly popular show.
Caplin has been playing the electric bass since he was 13 and the double bass since he was 17. He has been playing in the Pops for over 30 years and said, “Music is so much a part of me and I a part of it. I couldn’t think of doing anything else. It’s what I do and who I am.”
According to State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, countless hours of planning and collaborative effort went into delivering the spectacular fireworks show.
“This is largest show in Massachusetts,” Coan said, “so there are a lot of unique concerns from the aspect of public safety and a lot of details with choreography.” According to Coan, the fireworks barges are loaded a full four days in advance and are then electronically operated the night of the show.
Although it was a windy day, the fireworks went as planned. But if the closely monitored winds had surpassed a sustained 20 miles per hour, Coan said, the fireworks would have been cancelled.
Coan described this year’s show as being “new and very customized,” and, as promised, the firework show filled the cloudless sky with a dazzling display of new and exciting fireworks.
Prior to the evening’s main events, the patriotic spirit of Independence Day was evident throughout much of Boston and Cambridge. MIT students celebrated the holiday from a variety of locations, but those interviewed unanimously enjoyed the festivities.
Alorah M. Harman ’11 watched the fireworks display from one of independent living group pika’s homemade rafts, which floated down the waters of the Charles as part of Project Best Idea Ever, a group of roughly 90 MIT and Olin students who came together for the annual Fourth of July event.
Harman said one of pika’s most creative rafts was a floating bed frame complete with mattress and sheets. A group of canoes outfitted with working barbecue grills floated downstream alongside the group.
Like a number of other MIT students, Katie Silberstein ’10 watched the fireworks from the Cambridge side of the river, on campus. Silberstein watched from the Baker roof. She said she got “the best firework display that I’ve ever seen; the view was totally unobstructed.”
Anton V. Tarasenko, summer student visiting from Melbourne, Australia, described experiencing the Fourth of July festivities for the first time in Boston. In preparation for the holiday, Tarasenko spoke fondly of buying an American flag and learning the national anthem.
Tarasenko said that “the fireworks were like nothing that I’ve ever seen before. The American spirit was intense with all the flags, the cheering, and the sing-alongs. America is a great example to follow because people have such pride for their nation.”