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date: 25 July 2021

Pops concert [Pop, Promenade]free

Pops concert [Pop, Promenade]free

  • Susan Feder
  • , revised by Michael Mauskapf

Orchestral programs modeled after European promenade concerts of the 19th century, in which light classical music was played while the audience was served refreshments. The development of pops concerts in America reflected an emerging emphasis on the audience and an explicitly articulated division between so-called serious and light classical music propagated by conductor Theodore Thomas and others. Such concerts were traditionally structured in three parts, in which lively pieces—overtures, marches, and galops—were played in the outer sections while the middle section typically included waltzes and occasionally more serious works; encores were a regular feature. These concerts often took place in outdoor venues during the summer season, and featured audience promenades during the intermissions. Initially, works by European composers such as Rossini, Grieg, Liszt, and J. Strauss dominated the programs of pops concerts, but excerpts from musicals and operettas by De Koven and Herbert, among others, soon became a significant component. In general these concerts were understood as a vehicle to reach new audiences and broaden the appeal of orchestras and orchestral music.

Since at least 1885 there have been several types of ensembles that produce pops concerts: independent pops orchestras (such as the New York Pops), pops orchestras associated with “serious” symphony orchestras (such as the Boston and Cincinnati Pops), and orchestras that perform the occasional pops concert or arrangement. The Boston SO was the first institution to establish regular pops concerts in the United States, and thus has served as a model for others. The Boston Pops Orchestra consists of musicians from the symphony orchestra and is administered by the same staff, but it is branded as a separate entity. A number of works have been written especially for the Boston Pops, including those by Leroy Anderson and John Williams. Selections of patriotic music, especially The Star-Spangled Banner and Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever! (as well as others of his many marches), are regularly included on pops programs, particularly on Independence Day, when outdoor concerts often conclude with a display of fireworks. The conductor arthur Fiedler became inextricably identified with pops concerts through his leadership of the Boston Pops Orchestra (1930–79) and the San Francisco Pops Orchestra (1951–78), as well as his many recordings, television broadcasts, tours, and guest appearances. Other conductors associated with pops include john Williams , who succeeded Fiedler in Boston, Erich Kunzel, who founded the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in 1977, richard Hayman (who held the title “principal pops conductor” for concerts presented by the Detroit SO and the St. Louis SO), Skitch Henderson (whose New York Pops Orchestra made its debut in 1983), and keith Lockhart , who has served as music director of the Boston Pops since 1995. The first all-student pops orchestra was created on the University of Michigan’s campus in 1995. In recent years pops concerts have begun to incorporate film and video-game music, as well as special presentations in which orchestra musicians share the stage with well-known popular artists.


  • S. Ledbetter: 100 Years of the Boston Pops, ed. J.C. Marksbury (Boston, 1985)
  • L.C. Manning: A Guide to Orchestral “Pops” Programming: a Repertoire Handbook (diss., U. of South Carolina, 2005)
  • A. Adler: “Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music”: Arthur Fielder and the Boston Pops, 1930–1950 (diss., U. of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 2007)
  • W. Weber: The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms (New York, 2008)