Popular Music: An Attitude Worth Mentioning

Does performance of popular music demean a symphony orchestra?

Regarding the “Classical Music” one can reminisce to realize how incorrect this criticism of popular recordings demeaning the reputation of a symphony orchestra.

Growing up as a young clarinetist in Boston, one can only remember with fondness the extreme success of the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler. The Pops, which was one and the same with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, except for prinicipal players was the most attended of any of the many concerts presented in Boston.

Yes, things were different: There was no way a ticket could be purchased for the BSO unless you inherited one, or were a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. There were no tickets, however if you went to the desk and asked if there were any tickets that had been called in by ill subscribers, you might get to use their precious seats.

But there was the Pops Orchestra in Boston, and for those, one could always purchase tickets, and I remember them as wonderful. What was richly criticized was not the quality of the orchestra, but the conductor, Arthur Fiedler. Until of course, you got to play for him as a substitute or an inductee. The criticisn stopped right there, for he had an uncanny ear and a wonderful sense for balance. Just listen to the recordings, all of them having been reissued into oblivion.

It is a well known fact that the MSO suffers from lack of attendance. One wonders whether a pops orchestra might improve this lack of attendance, as it did in Boston, or for the New York Philharmonic Lewison Stadium Concerts. Yes, there was always unanimous criticism by the orchestra of the conductors, whether they were John Williams, Fiedler, or Skitch Henderson, but certainly not by those in attendance.

These players are the highest paid in the hemisphere and the season is simply 52 weeks if you want it.

Playing popular music doesn’t diminish an orchestra’s reputation. That is the attitude of a nose, (but not an ear) held too high in the air.


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