March 25, 1955:
The Masonic Temple was packed to the gills on a Friday night to listen to the Boston Pops orchestra under the direction of conductor Arthur Fiedler.
The program included such pieces as “Procession of Bacchus” from the ballet “Sylvia,” the overture to “Die Fledermaus” by Strauss, “The Golden Age” by Shostakovich, “Falling in Love with Love” from the musical “The Boys from Syracuse” and “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” from the musical “State Fair.”
The reviewer of the performance in The Scranton Times said Fiedler was “refined yet masterful, making the orchestra flexible and communicative.” He added that the orchestra had “a good depth of tone with finish and precision being ever apparent. Woodwind and brass functions were beautiful and the strings at times had unearthly beauty.”
In addition to the orchestra, world-renowned pianist Ruth Slenczynska, who performed with several major orchestras in the United States and Europe, delivered a masterful solo for the audience. The Times review called her performance of “Rhapsody on a Theme” by Paganini “lustrous and compelling.”
The Catholic Junior League sponsored the concert as a fundraiser for St. Joseph’s Center.
In addition to the 1955 performance, the Pops visited Scranton several times, first in January 1953 at the Scranton Catholic Youth Center before a crowd of 4,200 for a show sponsored by the parishioners of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church in Dunmore. The orchestra returned on March 19, 1954; March 6, 1959; and March 14, 1965, performing before sold-out crowds at the Masonic Temple. The 1954 and 1959 performances also raised money, while the 1965 show was part of the Community Concert Series.
Fiedler started with the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1930 and opened his 50th season with the group in May 1979. A few months later, on July 10, 1979, Fiedler died at 84.
In January 1980, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced that composer John Williams would take up the baton of the Boston Pops. Keith Lockhart has led the group since 1995.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 14 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast