For 64 years the coming of spring has brought one of Boston's finest traditions, the Pops concerts. Tuesday night the Boston Symphony Orchestra minus its top men in each section opened the sixty-fifth Pops season. Almost nothing has changed.
Arthur Fielder still races on stage, slaps his huge baton on the score for attention, plays each piece with the same sparkle, and sits down behind the same orange flowers. The programs look the same, the match books look the same, and the audience still cats, drinks, and talks through the lighter pieces. Once again the New England Grenfell Association was present on opening night. The only important changes noticeable were the new chairs and tables (the old ones had come from the old Music Hall in 1900) and the heaviness of the music played.
The program consisted of nine scheduled pieces and seven extras. They ran in seriousness from a brassy Overture to Tannhauser to Selections from Kiss Me Kate. Curiously enough, the most popular number by far was an extra entitled Classical Jute Box. This consisted of a little Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, and Put Another Nickel In all played more or less simultaneously. It is always amazing how the members of this orchestra can carry on a rigorous concert schedule all winter, change their name and style of playing two days after the Symphony season ends, and then, begin the nightly and unrehearsed Pops concert.
Despite this they seem to enjoy themselves while playing, frequently bursting into laughter. If for nothing else it is worth a trip into Symphony Hall to see Alfred Krips, the Symphony Orchestra's gifted Assistant Concertmaster, plucking his way through A Surrey with A Fringe on Top.
The music was exceedingly well played on opening night considering the lack of rehearsals, but that is only part of the Pops. It isn't every day that an orchestral version of Claire de Lune is accompanied by the popping of champague corks. Each night during the season all or part of the floor in Symphony Hall is sold to one or more groups.
These groups then sell their blocks to friends at slightly higher prices. This serves the double purpose of raising money and having a social outing at the same time. It is for this reason that there is always a low murmur and clink of glasses during a concert, although Tuesday's was a little restrained.
The programs for the next six days, all printed in the same book along with the menu and wine list, promise increasing levity. The concerts should become once again the more equally mixed social and musical occasion they have been in the past. If you have never been to the Pops it is practically essential that you go. To spend four years at Harvard without going to the Pops is to leave one's education lacking.