The Pops heard around the world

The Pops heard around the world

I was working near Boston during this year’s Independence Day. We didn’t get attacked by aliens, but I did get to go and see the “Boston Pops”. No, it’s not a bunch of old grandpas in tweed coats. It’s a Boston orchestra that goes wild and plays “popular” music. Not Top 40s radio pop music; more like a wide range of songs including classical, movie soundtracks, national folk songs, and rock anthems from yesteryear. It’s a funny mix. Star Wars man himself, John Williams, was the conductor from ’80 to ’93.

The evening usually includes 1 or 2 pop stars performing on stage and culminates with a “fireworks spectacular”. People travel from ’round the country to line up all day, then rush in and stake their claim on a piece of grass nearest the band. I didn’t have the time or inclination for this tom foolery, but I did plant my cheeks on a sweet patch of grass across the river. This is technically in Cambridge, but outsiders like me dinnae care. It’s all Boston to us.

My side of the river was sort of like a fairground. There were floodlights and large speakers so that we could hear the show live. Families had their blankets and potluck tables spread out, and could be seen playing catch or board games and card games. Food trucks with mostly greasy carnival food hawked their fatty fare. I walked up and down, enjoying this snapshot of American families.

They had some big names performing on stage, like Queen Latifah, but my favourite part was when they played the 1812 Overture. Aussies would recognise this as the tune for “Come join the army get your head blown off.” At the key moments in this classical piece, they fired real old-school cannons. The booms echoed across the river and bounced off the buildings, while puffs of smoke hung low. This was one of the key reasons I wanted to see it all live. It was pretty epic.

I was glad to have the chance to appreciate this national event from arguably the heart of the original storm. Boston is sort of the birthplace of American Independence because this is where they teabagged the Brits and had their first battle. They’ve celebrated ever since with the pops heard round the world.

An American said this to me:
– “America practically invented democracy”.


– 1812 Overture with cannons –

– Come join the army get your head blown off –

– Watch The American Revolution oversimplified –

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