Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, December 27, 2020, or: A Few Words About ‘Pops in Love: John Williams & the Boston Pops’

Art Design by Dennis Mukai and Peter Nomura (C) 1986 Philips Classics Productions

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s Sunday, December 27, 2020, and it is early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, the temperature is 66˚F (19˚C) under partly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the east at 9 MPH (15 KM/H) and humidity at 49%, the feels-like factor is  66˚F (19˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 67˚ (19˚C). Tonight we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 48˚F (9˚C).

As I write this, I’m listening to Pops in Love: John Williams and the Boston Pops, a 1987 album released by Philips and one that I’ve owned on compact disc since 2010. It’s a collection of 11 light classical pieces from various artistic periods, including the Baroque, Romantic, and post-Romantic eras. I bought it not just because I’ve been a fan of the Boston Pops Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Williams and – before him, the late Arthur Fiedler – but because it includes a performance of the Adagio for Strings and Organ, which was composed in the 1940s by Remo Giazotto but passed off as a Baroque piece by Tomaso Albinoni.

A live performance of “Albinoni’s Adagio in G for Strings and Organ” by Remo Giazotto. Unfortunately, Universal Music Group and the Boston Pops removed the Pops in Love videos from YouTube, so I had to use this version instead.

Here’s the track list for Pops in Love, in case you’re curious about the type of light classical music I listen to:

1Pavane (Gabriel Fauré)6:28
2Claire De Lune (Claude Debussy)4:35
3Adagio In G Minor (Remo Giazotto/Tomaso Albinoni)6:23
4The Swan (Camille Saint-Saëns)3:06
5Gymnopedie No. 1 (Erik Satie)2:34
6Andante Cantabile From String Quartet, Op. 11 (P.I. Tchaikovsky)7:13
7The Girl With Flaxen Hair (Claude Debussy)2:34
8Pavane for a Deceased Princess (Maurice Ravel)6:08
9Gymnopedie No. 2 (Erik Satie)3:17
10Canon (Johann Pachelbel)5:00
11Fantasia on Greensleeves (Ralph Vaughn-Williams)4:41

Pops in Love is a sentimental favorite of mine; I played it for my mom several times during the years of her final illness; she – like me – was a fan of the Boston Pops Orchestra from the late 1970s. Until the Boston Symphony Orchestra (the Pops’ parent organization) closed production of the long-running TV series Evening at Pops after the 2004-2005 season; the BSO no longer wanted to spend nearly the $1 million per episode cost to produce the series, which aired on PBS for 34 years.  I played many of my Boston Pops albums for Mom, but Pops in Love was her favorite, so we listened to it the most.

This was also the last album I listened to at my former home in Miami; I was slowly moving my belongings from there to New Hometown in the summer of 2016, but I was there because I had a court hearing that I had to attend, and I still had a portable CD player at the time, so I listened to Pops in Love a few more times before coming back here after the probate court hearing.

As I wrote in my review of Pops in Love in my original blog on Blogger:

I have been a fan of the Boston Pops Orchestra since I first watched the now-defunct Evening at Pops television show that aired on PBS from 1970 to 2005. I “discovered” the show while I was flipping channels one night in 1975 – when beloved conductor Arthur Fiedler led the Pops – and watched it loyally through the tenures of Fiedler’s successors – Maestro Williams and – since 1994 – Keith Lockhart. I loved WGBH-Boston’s presentation of the Boston Pops’ concerts – recorded at Symphony and presented across America regularly until the 2004-2005 season. After that, citing the expense of production – it’s always a matter of dollars and cents, isn’t it? – the Boston Symphony Orchestra pulled the plug on Evening at Pops.  

Fortunately, various recording companies – including RCA Victor, Philips (and its European successor Decca), and Sony Classical – have produced a wide array of albums with the Pops. I have several in my collection, and they cover the eras of Fiedler, Williams, and Lockhart.

Of the Williams-era Boston Pops albums, Pops in Love is unique for two reasons. 

First, it features an all-classical music program, with no arrangements of popular songs or show tunes whatsoever.  

Second, Pops in Love is one of the few Boston Pops albums in my collection that do not have any original film score material in the program.

That’s not to say that none of the 11 tracks in Pops in Love: John Williams & the Boston Pops Orchestra have no connections to the movies. As a matter of fact, I first heard Albinoni and Giazotto’s Adagio in G minor when director Peter Weir – anachronistically – featured it as underscore in the tragic third act of his 1981 World War I epic Gallipoli. I saw that movie at least a year before I heard it again when watching Evening at Pops with my mom many years ago.

I originally bought this CD in 2010 to play soothing, sweet music to my mother when she became seriously ill that spring. Osteoporosis and the effects of several accidents – a car crash when she was younger and falls when she was older – had turned her lower spine into a fine powder, so to prevent her from losing the ability to walk, her medical caregivers decided to operate. In the summer of 2010 Mom underwent a complicated procedure that entailed, among other things, a six-hour-long operation, and the insertion of a metal rod in her back to replace the vertebrae that were, essentially, no longer there.

The operation was a success. The recovery, especially the rehabilitative period, however, was not. Over a period of two years, Mom lost the ability to walk – not because she physically could not, but rather due to a fatal combination of stress, depression, and dementia. Almost five years after the surgery, Mom died, having not taken a step on her own since the summer of 2013.

When I became Mom’s primary caregiver, I made it my mission in life to keep her as calm and happy as I humanly could. To accomplish this, I watched movies and television shows with her in her small, cramped sick room. While her mind was still relatively lucid, I would help her with her Kindle – the only computer-like gadget that she loved – until she lost the mental ability to use it. And of course, I played many of my records for her, including this one.

Mom loved classical music, and because we used to watch Evening at Pops together until its cancellation, she loved John Williams and the Boston Pops as much as I do.  And Pops in Love was our go-to CD when she needed music that was both familiar and soothing. The album’s diversity – both stylistic and thematic – appealed to my mother almost to the very end. 

Well, it’s still sunny and not bone-chillingly cold, so I think I’ll wash my face, comb my hair a bit, put on my Han Solo jacket and hat, and go out for a brief stroll. I need the fresh air and sunshine, as well as a change of scenery. I haven’t done that in a while, so it’ll probably do me a little bit of good.

So, until next time, dear friend, I take my leave of you. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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