The Boston Pops, Neil Diamond and Craig Ferguson Celebrate July 4th ’09 Boston Style!

July 7, 2009
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Neil DiamondIf I’m passionate about anything, it’s about celebrating the Fourth of July in Boston!

Thanks to philanthropist David Mugar and Boston 4 Productions, there’s no place I’d rather be on the Fourth than on the Boston Esplanade watching The Boston Pops and Grammy Award-winning guest artists, and trying to find a 2 x 2 foot piece of grass to sit on as 20 minutes of incredible fireworks light up the night’s sky! 

It doesn’t get any better than celebrating Independence Day right here in Boston.  But don’t just take my word for it; ask any of the 500,000 people who lined both sides of the Charles River this July 4th, all with the same goal: Celebrating our nation’s birthday…Boston style!

Since 1974, through the generous giving of David Mugar, Boston 4 Productions and corporate sponsors, Bostonians and the nation have been given the gift of the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular event.  Each year, The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra invites special musical Keith Lockhartguests to share the stage as they broadcast live across the nation and over the airwaves. This year’s special guest was music icon and Grammy award-winning superstar Neil Diamond.

According to Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart, Neil Diamond is an artist who has been on the Pops’ wish list for years, and this year, they were finally able to make it happen. To hear Neil Diamond perform Sweet Caroline and America would be as Red Sox Nation says, “so good, so good, so good”! 

The 2009 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular was hosted by Craig Ferguson of CBS’  “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”. Ferguson joked that this was his third time hosting the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, and that now that he has his American citizenship, he just wants to sit back, have a beer and watch the fireworks like everyone else!


Let The Show Begin!
For a half million people, the evening’s festivities began as the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and Boston’s own Syncopation each performed to ‘warm up’ the audience. Each performance was magnificent.  

The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets: Heroic Fanfare

The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, with its 14 horns and 2 drums, performed Paul Murtha’s 9/11-inspired Heroic Fanfare.

Syncopation’s multi-talented jazz-style quartet performed On a Clear Day, which it definitely was this Fourth of July

With the crowd warmed up, it was time to start the show!  First up, The Star Spangled Banner performed by The Boston Pops and the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. Our National Anthem was topped off with a flyover by the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard! Woooooosh! The Boston Pops then performed John Williams’ inspirational The Olympic Spirit.


Neil Diamond ~ That’s All Right…We’ve Got All

Neil Diamond hardly needed an introduction. With the audience on its feet, Neil sang Cracklin’ Rosie and Forever in Blue Jeans.  Neil was energetic and fun, and he sounded Neil Diamondfantastic!

At 68, and with nearly five decades in music, Neil Diamond sounds better than many young artists today.  He was warm and appreciative, and he knew how to work this Boston crowd.  The best was yet to come!

Following Neil Diamond, The Boston Pops performed Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, narrated by The Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes.
The tribute to Abraham Lincoln was accompanied by a moving and thought-provoking video.  The combined music, narration and video were somber, haunting, dignified and beautiful!

Making their Boston Pops debut, Syncopation returned to the stage to perform a unique rendition of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.  Mentored by Manhattan Transfer’s Cheryl Bentyne, Syncopation’s Aubrey Logan, Christine Fawson, David Thorne Scott and Tsunenori “Lee” Abe are multi-talented singers and horn players, and they gave an amazing performance!

Ten-year old Oladunni Oladipo sang a vocal arrangement of The Pledge of Allegiance, which was written in 2001 by 8-year old Laurie Angela Hochman. Two years ago, Oladunni made her debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and has since performed for Red Sox and Celtics fans, among others. With such confidence, poise and talent, Oladunni seems years beyond her mere 10!

Smoke Fills the Air

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture


No Boston Pops 4th of July would be complete without Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.  The 1812 begins slowly, eloquently, softly. And then it begins to build…and build…and build! And at the height of the 1812’s climax, a dozen cannon blasts from M102 Howitzer’s pierce a million ears, courtesy of Massachusetts’ 101st Field Artillery Regiment! 

 It’s one of the most anticipated 10 minutes of The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular event! In addition to the 1812 Overture and cannon blasts, Esplanade revelers get their first fireworks display of the evening as they oooh, aahhh, whistle and applaud!  It’s my absolute favorite part of the night!


They Danced…and Proclaimed ‘Don’t Be YouTube’n Me Soldier!’
Normally, there isn’t too much to report about intermission.  But as The Boston Pops prepared to televise the second half of the concert nationwide, host Craig Ferguson decided to kill some time by showing Bostonians his Scottish roots with a bit of Highland dancing.  At first, Craig and Keith Lockhart did a little doe-si-doe romp on stage, but then things got serious! 

The Boston Pops played I’m Shipping up to Boston and Craig gave us a show!  He did a little Highland dancing, for about 10 seconds, and then, out of breath proclaimed “Don’t be YouTubin’ me soldier! If you want to see me dance soldier, you gotta put a dollar in my pocket!”


Keith Lockhart and Craig Ferguson: Lords of the Dance!

Craig Ferguson told us he was just “trying to fill time during the commercial break”, and when he was told there was “one more minute”, he asked, “til what?…til I dance again?”  And with that, and 30 seconds on the clock, he got our beloved Maestro Lockhart to join him center stage, who challenged him with “Bring it Ferguson!” Craig and the Maestro danced some more and the audience loved it! 

If the 1812 was the symphonic highlight of the evening, this was surely the comedic highlight of the night! Such fun!  Who knows, maybe next year Craig Ferguson will bring his own entourage of highland dancers! [Hint hint Craig?!]



America, Mr. Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond
Telecasting live nationwide on CBS and with the world tuned in to WBZ Radio and Classical WCRB, The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, sponsored by Liberty Mutual, was ready to kick it into high gear.  Millions of viewers and spectators anxiously awaited Neil Diamond!

Neil Diamond had performed earlier in the evening, singing Cracklin’ Rosie and Forever in Blue Jeans. But the fun was just about to begin!

Boston and Red Sox Nation have adopted Neil Diamond’s classic hit Sweet Caroline as its unofficial Red Sox and Boston song.  It has become a musical mainstay at Boston sporting events, including Boston Celtics basketball games where fists pump and voices roar, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Craig Ferguson introduced Neil Diamond and with those first words, “Where it began”, the crowd was swaying and singing the background “Oooh oooo ooooo oooooo”! This is definitely Red Sox Nation, and these were big time Neil Diamond fans!

As Neil Diamond sang, “reaching out, touching me, touching you,” he came down into the audience and walked and sang among the crowd! Good times never seemed so good, so good so good! He smiled, he touched hands, he reached out and he told the audience he was going to need everyone to sing, to get ready and “here we go!”

Boston Sings Sweet Caroline with Neil Diamond!

“Sweet Caroline, Oh! Oh! Oh!, Good times never seemed so good, So Good! So Good! So Good! I’ve been inclined, Oh! Oh! Oh!…” It was a total blast!

But wait…there’s more!!!
As the nationwide broadcast went to commercial break, Neil Diamond told the audience that maybe he should do it once again just for us and then asked the Maestro, “Hey Keith Lockhart, is that all right with you?”

Neil told us he was counting on us and needed us to take a deep breath and “let’s do it together!” So we began, “Sweet Caroline, Oh! Oh! Oh!” And at the end of the song, Brooklyn native and  staunch New York Yankees fan Neil Diamond said, “Go Red Sox, Go Red Sox!”

 What fun! Such a generous and selfless performance by Neil Diamond! And we weren’t even finished yet! Neil Diamond’s final performance of the night would be America

America is patriotic and fitting for our nation’s birthday party, celebrating all who, from around the world, would come to the United States.  “My country tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty.”

Neil Diamond is a remarkable performer and a true music icon. I never thought I would have been that excited to see and hear him perform, but he really was spectacular!

Patriotism, a Birthday Party and More Dancing!

Patriotic Sing Along with a Scot!

After Neil Diamond departed the stage, Maestro Keith Lockhart led the audience in a Patriotic Sing-Along. I love

how Maestro Lockhart conducts the audience while the orchestra performs behind him.  He manages to conduct us all together! 

During the sing-along, Craig Ferguson joined our Maestro center stage where the two danced to The Yankee Doodle Boy. It was a great night for dancing and celebrating!

Immediately following the sing-along, The Boston Pops performed its signature piece, Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever. The flag unfurled from the Hatch Shell and confetti rained down on the audience on the lawn.  The 2009 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular concert had come to an end, and all that was left was to watch 20+ minutes of magnificent fireworks over the Charles River!  It was a beautiful night, with the most gorgeous weather to see the fireworks in their full splendor!

It was a marvelous Fourth of July!  To all who contributed to its success, we thank you! It was So Good! So Good! So Good! And now…Fireworks!  Happy Birthday America!

For additional video clips of the event, visit
Some photos courtesy Ryan Miner:


Stars and Stripes Forever
Alicia Keys: America the Beautiful
Fireworks Finale








SyncopationOladunni and KeithBoston Pops July 2009








One Response to The Boston Pops, Neil Diamond and Craig Ferguson Celebrate July 4th ’09 Boston Style!
  1. Anonymous said…

    This is a wonderful recap of the show – I felt like I was there. Thank you, Betsy!
    July 11, 2009 1:42 AM

    Anonymous said…

    Thank you for taking the trouble to review the show. It was So Good So Good!
    July 11, 2009 3:02 AM

    Betsy Hijazi said…

    Thanks for the comments! It certainly wasn’t any trouble! I had a fabulous time and hope that others, like you, are able to enjoy the experience through me!
    July 11, 2009 3:04 AM

    Anonymous said…

    Thank you Betsy, for capturing that wonderful night. I, too was there, and it was an amazing experience. I am a huge Neil Diamond fan, and have always watched the Pops celebration of The 4th. on TV, from my home in NH. Finally…the two came together for a night I’ll never forget. Thank you for your words, photos, and videos.
    July 11, 2009 7:55 AM

    Anonymous said…

    Well, there are also plenty out there who saw the show televised and were not impressed. The Boston Pops themselves are great, the fireworks looked great. Neil Diamond? He didn’t know when to give up singing(?)( more like yelling,) and just stick to songwriting……
    July 11, 2009 10:44 AM

    Anonymous said…

    Betsy, great article….Boston Pops spectacular, fireworks spectacular.
    Neil Diamond….thumbs down….
    TOO MUCH YELLING….as usual.
    Were others there also, who were disappointed with parts of the evening, but not the Pops.
    July 11, 2009 11:09 AM

    Betsy Hijazi said…

    For me, I appreciated that he gave a great performance. Neil is nearly 70 and his voice is undoubtedly not as great as it was 20 years ago. But he is a great showman, he interacted with the audience more than most artists, and he did sound good. I was entertained and can’t say anything bad about the night. If there was any disappointment, I would say I wish he had sung different songs for the first half, and more songs, and the fireworks seemed a little less amazing than in years past. That said, it was a fabulous night and I loved it all!
    July 11, 2009 11:17 AM

    Anonymous said…

    Well Betsy, then you probably did not see it televised…you could plainly hear his shouts very well thru the televidsion audio…. There were a lot of artists to represent the country who could have blown N.D, off the stage…then every aspect of the evening could have been spectacular….
    July 12, 2009 8:58 AM

    cindy said…

    I was there:) and Betsy, do you know what is the song that was played when the fireworks first started?
    July 12, 2009 2:18 PM

    Betsy Hijazi said…

    Cindy – according to the program guide, the first song was the “Title Theme” to the “Air Force One Soundtrack”, recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
    July 12, 2009 2:31 PM

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