Eileen Neary

A Boston July Fourth Tradition: The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

Eileen Neary

As a kid, one of my family’s traditions was watching the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on TV on the Fourth of July. Boston’s greatest orchestra plus other musical guests plus an amazing fireworks display is always the perfect way to end a New England Independence Day. Inspired by the orchestra’s compelling performances, I began learning to play the violin when I was 8. Performing at the Hatch Shell one day seemed like a dream come true (next to being Mia Hamm, of course).

My mom adored (and still does) the Boston Pops’ conductor, Keith Lockhart, like most people adore their favorite singer or actor. To date, Lockhart has led over 1,800 Boston Pops concerts during his 22 years (1995–present) as conductor. But if you think that’s a record, you’re wrong—Arthur Fiedler was the conductor for 49 years (1930–1979). Fiedler is responsible for introducing pop culture to the Boston “Popular Concerts”—later shortened from “Popular” to “Pops.” He is also responsible for organizing the first free Charles River Esplanade concerts.

Composer John Williams (yes, that John Williams, most-nominated-living-person-in-Academy-Award-history John Williams) also deserves some major credit for his tenure as the Pops conductor (1980–1993). Williams introduced to the Pops repertoire some of his film scores from famous movie scenes, helped lead the orchestra to record some national best-selling albums and used some of his Hollywood connections to have Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and iconic characters like Darth Vader and R2-D2 appear onstage. 

Today, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is broadcast worldwide and inspires more than half a million people each year to grab their blankets and folding chairs and flock to the Charles River Esplanade for the celebration. This year, the Independence Day tradition includes a fighter jet flyover while “The Star-Spangled Banner” is performed, Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr., pop singer Andy Grammer and singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, as well as new compositions and old patriotic favorites. And best of all? The 20-minute Fireworks Spectacular, which lives up to its name every year.

For more info on the show, visit bostonpopsjuly4th.org.

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