BIG NIGHT IN BOSTON

Once a year, because we are very lucky, a good friend sends us tickets to see the Boston Pops Christmas concert. It’s always a joyful experience and is the high point of our holiday season.

This is one Sunday night in December 2015 — at the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall, Boston.

2015 – NIGHT AT THE POPS

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Take the The Boston Pops and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus … then add Keith Lockhart and an audience of happy holiday celebrants and what do you have? A gathering of joy and celebration of holiday music.

Symphony Hall, Boston

Symphony Hall, Boston

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The Boston Pops Christmas concert, 2015. A joyous gathering of music lovers and music makers in Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts.

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FOLLOWING, FOLLOWERS, AND COMMENTS

I follow so many blogs I don’t always have the time to visit everyone in the course of a weekend, much less daily. And yesterday, we actually went out. I did not stay home glued to the computer. What a concept, eh?

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We had tickets to see the Boston Pops Christmas Concert at Symphony Hall and we were going with our best friends. They were driving in from the western part of the state. It was an occasion.

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I didn’t spend the evening reading blogs. Not even favorites. This morning, on seeing another 100 notifications in my inbox along with those I didn’t get to yesterday — or the day before — I deleted everything I hadn’t yet read. Because I don’t have enough time.

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It’s just two weeks until Christmas. I haven’t wrapped a package or put up the tree. Or extracted the decorations from the attic.

If I follow you … and you know who you are … you know I like you — or I wouldn’t follow you.

ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE: CHRISTMAS EDITION 2014

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 42

It’s an odd time of year, a good time for oddball pictures. Add to that my habit of taking pictures of everything in my house because I can and you have a fair number of pictures that don’t exactly “fit” a category. Or maybe they do. I’m just not sure what that might be.

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Bonnie Xmas

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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.

LAST CHRISTMAS AT THE POPS

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 Weekly Photo Challenge: Crowd

When I looked at this challenge, my first thought was “I don’t have any crowd pictures.” Then I thought again and realized it was all about how you define a crowd.

So here’s one from last December, at the Boston Pops!

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NOTHING SAYS INDEPENDENCE DAY LIKE ARTILLERY

Yankee Doodle Dandy

It’s the 4th of July. Happy Birthday America!

Hurricane Arthur (spirit of Arthur Fiedler?) changed the schedule. With the hurricane heading up the coast and thunder and lightning racing in from the west, the festivities were moved up by 24 hours. The fireworks went on early, barely ahead of the weather. WBZ didn’t have all their cameras ready and had to show the first half of the display from the helicopter cams. After a while, the rest of the cameras came on and it was even better than last year.

The live 1812 Overture was preempted by a massive lightning storm. Instead, WBZ broadcast a taped version (dress rehearsal?). Which was fine.

For the historically challenged, our Guv (Deval Patrick) offered up some history, what the music is about. NOT our War of 1812. The war going on across the pond. Napoleon. Russia. I think this was the first time I’ve seen them do that, so everyone got a bit of remedial European history.

No place does Independence Day like Boston. It’s our holiday. The rest of the country is a Johnny-Come-Lately. It happened here. The Declaration of Independence. The battles of Lexington and Concord.

Boston knows how to hold a party … and let’s not forget the howitzers, the most important instruments in the 1812 Overture. Nothing says independence day like artillery.

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When we lived in Boston, we could see the fireworks and hear the concert from our balcony in Charles River Park. It was one of the perks of living in Boston. If we wanted to get closer, we could stroll a few hundred yards west enjoy the party from the Arthur Fiedler footbridge over the Charles.

It was the best view in town. Watching it on television is okay too, now that we live in the country and getting into town is out of the question. Still, being there was the best.

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Boston has had a pretty good year. Nothing awful — other than the appalling collapse of our World Champion Red Sox — happened. Even more reason for us to get together and have a gigantic party to celebrate America’s birthday. The rain has put (ahem) a bit of a damper on it, but we’re adaptable.

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Now it’s time to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy again. We always watch it. It’s part of our personal celebration of being American.

When Garry and I were growing up in New York, the old Channel 9 had Million Dollar Movie. It was on not only every day, but several times a day and it played the same movies for a full week. The theme for the show was “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With the Wind. I had never seen GWTW, so when I saw it for the first time, I said “Hey, that’s the theme for Million Dollar Movie.”

I wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights and even then, only for a couple of hours on Friday and Saturday night. But, if I was home sick, I got to watch all the television I wanted. Better yet, I got to watch upstairs in my parents bedroom. The television was black and white (as were all televisions then). I don’t know if color TVs had been invented, but if they had been, no one I knew had one.

Channel 9 with its Million Dollar Movie was the movie channel, so whatever they were playing, I saw it a lot. They didn’t have a large repertoire. Odds were good if you got sick twice, you’d see the same movie both weeks.

Thus “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the great James Cagney docu-musical was engraved in my brain. I believe that during at least three sick weeks (tonsillitis was my nemesis), I watched it repeatedly until I knew every word, every move, every song — except for the pieces the station randomly removed to make room for commercials.

No one danced like Cagney. No one had that special energy! Believe it or not, I never saw any other Cagney movie until One, Two, Three came out many years later.

Tonight, we’ll watch James Cagney dance down the steps in the White House. We always replay it half a dozen times. Can’t get enough of it.

In case you feel the same way, I’ve included it so you can replay it as many times as you want. Cagney won his only Oscar for this performance. I never knew he played gangsters until many years later. Million Dollar Movie didn’t play gangster movies.

Only one questions remains unanswered through the years. How come they didn’t film it in color? Does anyone have a sensible answer to that?

DAILY PROMPT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!

esplanade-boston-fireworks-2013Favorite holiday?

Not Christmas though I’ve had some fine Christmases and enjoyed them as only someone who wasn’t brought up with Christmas can. I had to marry Christmas so I could make it merry. I love it dearly. From the brightly wrapped gifts to the decorated tree to the carols piped through every shop and mall in America — I love it — though I’m always aware I’m borrowing it. Maybe that makes me appreciate it more — because I remember when it wasn’t part of my world.

I also remember some totally fabulous Passover seders with roasted lamb and all the ritual trimmings. Ceremonies, wine and song. Those were great too.

But I have to cast my vote for Independence Day. The 4th of July, America’s big, booming birthday bash. What’s not to like? Burning meat on the barbecue? Hot dogs, hamburgers. Potato salad I make myself with a side of slaw. Ketchup and mustard to douse the flavor of scorching. Everyone wearing shirts with flags and finally, watching the best fireworks. What is more satisfying than explosions in the sky?

I’ve seen fantastic fireworks at the Boston Navy Yard, along the Charles. In the sky over Nantucket Sound and old Uxbridge High School’s football field. I love fireworks.  Bang, boom and the yummy smell of cordite in the air.

I remember a long time ago … the mid 1970s … a friend and I walked all the way from the house in Hempstead to Eisenhower Park. A few miles. Traffic was terrible on the fourth and there wasn’t any place to park when you got there, so … we walked. Then we lay flat on our backs on the grass and watched the sky explode.

When Garry and I were first together and lived in Charles River Park, we stood on the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge and watched the sky light up, listened to the Pops play the 1812 overture, with cannons. I later saw the celebration from the Hatch Shell, though it was less fun because Garry was working and had no one with whom to go “ooh” and “aah.”

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I don’t know about the rest of you. There are lots of excellent holidays and always plenty of good reasons to love them. Holidays are great and we should take every opportunity to celebrate. Life is short and sometimes grim, so party hearty when you can. On principle. As for me, let’s send up some skyrockets and start a bonfire. My kind of holiday.

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CHRISTMAS AT THE POPS 2013

Gallery

This gallery contains 12 photos.

December 13, 2013 A great evening. Snow expected, but not this night. Tomorrow, or perhaps the night after, the roads will be slick. But tonight, the roads are dry, though traffic is holiday heavy. As we drive into Boston, we … Continue reading

Holiday Visit to the Boston Pops

We were so lucky to be given the gift of five tickets to the Boston Pops. Garry and I, my daughter-in-law Sandy, Kaity and her friend Steph had our own table in Boston’s gorgeous symphony hall where the ghost of Arthur Fiedler still hovers in the wings.

The Girls

Symphony Hall

Balcony filling

Arthur Fiedler was such a fixture in Boston for so long that it seemed that he would live forever and when he passed on and it was time for the Boston Pops to get a new conductor, it was hard to imagine that Keith Lockhart, who seemed such a kid when he first came to Boston … how could he fill those great big shoes?

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Filling the balconies

But Keith has done beautifully as conductor of the Pops, taking it in new and delightful directions. He has brought a level of energy and excitement … and a sense of joy and fun … that has kept the Boston Pops the première destination for a holiday musical experience.

The Choir is ready

Sing!

The choir was the same all volunteer Tanglewood Choir from years before, bringing their own passion and joy to the show that is always a delight.

String Section

Strings

I think people under-estimate how difficult some of the music done by the Pops really is. Here’s a taste for you.

Their version of “The 12-days of Christmas” is a tour de force. Constant changes of key, speed, rhythm …. well, it’s amazing and so much fun. You can download a full version of it, or get the entire CD.

Let us not forget the traditional performance of “The Night Before Christmas,” with incredible projected illustrations. Preceded by a visit from … guess who … Santa himself.

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Lead in to 12 Days of Christmas with Santa

I got so many great pictures of the concert … and I did it all with my little point and shoot Canon because it was the only camera I had with a long enough lens. It did an astonishing job. I have a lot of respect for these little Canons. Over the years, they have served me very well indeed.

No way to put all the photos all into a single post, but there will be more to come! Meanwhile, enjoy the season, enjoy the music, and enjoy each other!