Arthur Fiedler

The silver-haired gent with the penchant for chasing fire engines was not the first conductor of the Boston Pops, which had been around since 1885. In fact, Fiedler, a Boston native, had been a violinist and violist in the Boston Symphony since 1915 (he also played keyboard and percussion instruments), and got his first chance in front of the Pops as a replacement conductor in 1926. His request for the official position was turned down, but he got it four years later, beginning an unprecedented run as Pops conductor for almost 50 years, till his death in 1979. Fiedler had already created and become conductor of the Boston Sinfonietta, and presented the first free Esplanade concert in 1929. His programming with the Pops was, as the group’s name suggests, populist in style, mixing European and American classical works with show tunes and, later, Beatles songs. He turned the Pops into a major recording orchestra and became a much-loved American figure, so much so that he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Gerald Ford in 1977. After his death, Fiedler was temporarily replaced as Pops conductor by Harry Ellis Dickson till John Williams took over. Keith Lockhart has held the baton since 1995, and has kept to Fielder’s idea of finding common ground between music that is classic in nature and music that is a little more flavor-of-the-month.
(by Ed Symkus)

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