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Growing Up Within Symphony Hall’s Walls

Peter Fiedler revisits the nooks and crannies of a magical childhood

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In the video above, Peter Fiedler shares his unique perspectives on a world-famous icon — and father.

Peter Fiedler doesn’t have any daddy issues. Aside from the resemblance to his famous father — the thick silver hair, the moustache, and the gleam in his eye — BU’s vice president for administrative services proudly embraces his blood tie to inimitable conductor Arthur Fiedler (Hon.’51), who presided over the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall for almost 50 years.

“I always have a certain emotional welling up when I walk through the door of this building,” Peter Fiedler says. “It just has a zillion memories for me. I spent many hours, days, weeks, months collectively through my childhood and teenage years in Symphony Hall, either attending concerts or joining my father when he was in his office.”

Arthur Fiedler brought orchestral music to the general public through the Pops’ long spring seasons at Symphony Hall, as well as creating the immensely popular Fourth of July concerts on the Esplanade. He applied a light touch to performances, to orchestral treatments of popular music, and to showmanship, which sometimes veered toward self-mockery.

“He was a ham,” Peter Fiedler says. “He wasn’t a baseball-throwing kind of dad; he was a guy who tried to give you his knowledge and wisdom through being around you. He was always, ‘What you see is what you get.’”

Peter Fiedler got a backstage view of musicianship, a boy with the run of Boston’s most remarkable and historic hall. His relationship to the place is unique and his perspectives personal, full of insights into the anecdotes and intimacies that make great public performances possible.

Arthur Fiedler died in 1979, at age 84, at his home in Brookline after suffering a heart attack the day after a performance at Symphony Hall. BU’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center holds Fiedler’s archive of papers and memorabilia. This fall, the contents of the Fiedler Reading Room at Mugar Memorial Library — hand-annotated scores, batons, family photos — are on loan to the venerable hall for a yearlong display commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Boston Pops.

“Symphony Hall maintains a position in the city of Boston unlike any other building,” says Peter Fiedler, who makes sure to catch several performances a year. “It’s just remarkable. And it houses some of the most wonderful music you’ll hear anywhere in the world.”

Special BSO concert ticket discounts include the BSO College Card, offering Boston-area college students the opportunity to attend up to 16 concerts for one low price of $25, as well as $20 concert tickets for patrons under the age of 40. Details are at the BSO Web site. Tickets may be purchased by phone through Symphony Charge, at 617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200, in person at the Symphony Hall box office, 301 Massachusetts Ave., or online.

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu. Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on Growing Up Within Symphony Hall’s Walls

  • Anonymous on 09.21.2009 at 9:54 pm

    All BU Students are entitled to a FREE BSO College Card. You may pick up a card in the Dean’s Office of CFA. Later this semester, cards will available at the GSU Link.

  • Anonymous on 09.22.2009 at 9:31 am

    Awesome.

  • cdanilof on 09.24.2009 at 3:32 pm

    nice work

    Caleb, nice work. You got into some fun and interesting details without going schmaltzy. Good balance. I also like how Mr. Fiedler is allowed to narrate his story: makes it feel more intimate and personal.

    – JSLeyson

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