BLIZZARD OF 1978 – GARRY ARMSTRONG

There’s a big storm coming. How big? Hard to tell, but definitely a very substantial snow event. This seems to be the time of year when the biggest storms hit this region. About 37 years ago, when a storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts on the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978, thousands of people were let out of work early to get home before the storm. But traffic was, as usual, heavy and the snow began falling at over an inch per hour. Soon more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks were stranded in rapidly building snowdrifts along Rt. 128 (same as Route 95). Fourteen people died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they huddled in trapped cars.


GARRY ARMSTRONG: 

There are so many incredible scenes that remain clear in my memory from the Blizzard of ’78.

I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning as one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England. I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, kept getting signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots.

There was no traffic. There were no people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am or was 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.

Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people: just snow as high and as far as the eye could see.

Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of kindness and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep, lots of coffee, lots of pizza and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.

The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news biz career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all.

One more thing. It needs no hype or hysteria.

CHRISTMAS AT THE POPS 2014

Of all the things we do in December, our trip to the Boston Pops for their Christmas concert is my favorite. First of all, what’s not to like?

It’s a great concert, fine orchestra, perfect symphony venue. Boston’s Symphony Hall was built in 1900. It’s a classic, both architecturally and acoustically.

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According to the BSO’s website, Symphony Hall opened on October 15, 1900 with an inaugural gala led by music director Wilhelm Gericke. The architects, McKim, Mead & White of New York, engaged Wallace Clement Sabine, a young assistant professor of physics at Harvard, as their acoustical consultant.

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Symphony Hall is widely regarded as one of the top concert halls in the world. The walls of the stage slope inward to help focus the sound. The side balconies are shallow so as not to trap any of the sound, and the recesses of the ceiling, along with the statue-filled niches along the three sides, help to distribute the sound throughout the hall.

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The 16 replicas of Greek and Roman statues are related in some way to music, art, or literature.

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They were placed in the niches as part of an appreciation of the frequently quoted words, “Boston, the Athens of America,” written by Bostonian William Tudor in the early 19th century.

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The concert organ at Boston’s Symphony Hall

The Symphony Hall organ — an Aeolian Skinner designed by G. Donald Harrison and installed in 1949 — is one of the finest concert hall organs in the world.

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A couple of interesting points for observant concert-goers: Beethoven is the only composer whose name was inscribed on one of the plaques that trim the stage and balconies; the other plaques were left empty since it was felt that only Beethoven’s popularity would remain unchanged.

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The initials “BMH” for “Boston Music Hall”, as the building was originally to have been called, appear on the stairwell banisters at the Huntington Avenue side, originally planned as the main entrance. The old Boston Music Hall was gutted only after the new building, Symphony Hall, was opened.

Four calling birds ...
Four calling birds … in “The 12 Days of Christmas

This year’s program was a bit different than previous year’s. Instead of the usual reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” there was a reading and music dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I (November 1914) and the spontaneous “Christmas Truce” of 24 December 1914.

The classic performance of "Sleigh Ride" brought the audience to its feet
The classic performance of “Sleigh Ride” brought the audience to its feet

There was less use of projected images, more orchestral music. But Santa Claus made his traditional appearance and “The 12 Days of Christmas” was as joyful and raucous as ever. The program was intentionally more inclusive. It was great hearing some songs I remember my mother singing in Yiddish played by this wonderful orchestra.

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Sometimes the question comes up whether it’s worth supporting orchestras and concert halls like this … and I think of how much we would lose without them. The shine in the eyes of my granddaughter the first time she saw Symphony Hall. For that matter, the shine in my eyes the first time I heard a concert in Carnegie Hall. These places are national treasures. We have so little of our past preserved. I am so grateful we have held onto these precious, beautiful places.

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And the music. Oh, the music.

NIGHT LIGHTS – BOSTON 2014

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I love our annual excursion to the Boston Pops Christmas concert. I love the music. I love symphony hall. I love the area, the architecture, the happy crowd … and that we always seem to get a great parking space. I take the parking space as a sign that the gods favor us. Next … a lottery win!

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The other big reason I love that excursion is my annual opportunity to shoot at night in Boston. I can shoot night scenes around here any day of the year, but our town isn’t exactly Metropolis. Urban landscape requires an urban setting.

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We always do these excursions in a family group … and I am always the only one who brings a camera. This time I just kept the tickets in my bag and told everyone when I was through taking pictures, they would get tickets … and not a moment sooner. That slowed them down!

After the show, I took a few more, but they decided to not leave me behind there on the streets of Boston, even though I couldn’t threaten them with tickets. Nice of them, don’t you think?

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This also responds to the Weekly Photo Challenge, TWINKLE -http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/twinkle/

BOSTON AT NIGHT IN BLACK AND WHITE

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Open Topic

One of the big pluses of our annual trip to the Boston Pops is my one and only chance to get some night shots of Boston.

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This area is called “symphony,” and is the musical center of the city. Berklee College of Music and Symphony Hall are here.

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The Tee stop is the Symphony stop. It’s an old and beautiful part of town.

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DOWNTOWN BOSTON – THEATER DISTRICT

Wilbur Theater Boston

The Wilbur Theater is on Tremont Street in Boston. Opened in 1914, the Wilbur was updated and (mostly) restored in 2008. It’s in the middle of Boston’s historic theater district.

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Boston’s theater district is small compared to bigger cities like New York, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm. And convenience. It’s not far from anywhere to anywhere else.

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wang theater night boston

Today, the Wilbur is known for live comedy and music. When fully occupied, it holds 1100 people. Its interior details are traditional “old style” theater.

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I grew up in New York. These details are the definition of theater for me. I miss the old, big, padded seats, though.

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Clarence Blackall built the theater in 1913. The Wilbur was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1998, SFX Entertainment (now Live Nation) bought the lease on the Wilbur as part of a larger land purchase. The lease expired in 2006.

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In 2007 the theater was back on the market.

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Today, it’s the home of the Comedy Connection in Boston, formerly located in Quincy Market. It hosts both comedy and concerts.

theater district boston night

schubert theater boston night

Prescience

Marilyn Armstrong:

Doobster says it better than I could.
There is no joy in Mudville.

Originally posted on Mindful Digressions:

Red Sox World Series ChampsBack on April 1st of this year I published a post, From first to worst. In that post I wrote:

This is an unmitigated disaster. It’s almost the end of the baseball season and my beloved Boston Red Sox are in last place.

Of course, if you know anything about baseball, you know that my post was tongue-in-cheek. After all, it wasn’t “almost the end of the baseball season.” In fact, it was the very beginning of the Major League Baseball season and the Red Sox had played just one regular season game, which they lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 2-1.

The Sox won the World Series in 2013. That put them at baseball’s pinnacle — the top of the heap. They were the best team in professional baseball last season. So I was highly confident that, despite losing their opening game of the 2014 season, they would do…

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