Some things of a summer’s night endure: baseball games, lightning bugs, and the All-American musical entertainment of Evening at Pops on Channel 13. The long-running favorite begins its nineteenth season on public television this month with a roster of stars almost as long as the program’s illustrious history. The first star of Evening at Pops, of course, was conductor Arthur Fiedler. At the time of his death in 1979, Fiedler had been at the helm of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 50 years, or more than half the orchestra’s then-ninety-seven-year history. He brought the Pops to public television audiences in 1970 and quickly became one of America’s most beloved figures.
When composer John Williams (Star Wars, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) picked up the Evening at Pops baton at the beginning of this decade, fans were quickly assured that their summer enjoyment would return for years to come. The warm-weather party continues this month when a new season of Evening at Pops debuts on Channel 13 Friday, July 8, at 8 p.m.
On tap for the summer series are programs featuring many of America’s favorite performers, including the Smothers Brothers, Dionne Warwick, Andre Watts, and Tommy Tune.
Headlining the July 8 premiere will be an all-star lineup featuring Andy Williams, Cleo Laine, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, and the timeless trio Peter, Paul, and Mary in an evening of jazz, folk, pop, and blues.
The following week, this month’s Dial cover subjects, the Smothers Brothers, come to Evening at Pops with their patented blend of satirical folk singing and sibling rivalry, Tom and Dick, whose Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a controversial hit for CBS in the late sixties and whose current series on that network is earning the brothers new fans, haven’t lost a beat in the past two decades, and their mix of music and comedy promises to be one of the summer’s highlights.
Though they still maintain an edge to their act, they’ve mellowed along with the rest of America since the Vietnam era. “We don’t have to be topical anymore,” Tom told a reporter not long ago. “In the sixties we were educating people because they didn’t know anything, Now everybody knows everything. We don’t need to tell them anything.”
Friday, July 22, tall Texan Tommy Tune, the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, and the American Ballroom Dance Theater visit Evening at Pops for a special tribute to the late Fred Astaire. Tune, a Tony-winning dancer/singer/director/choreographer and the star of such Broadway hits as Nine and My One and Only, is in many ways the successor to Astaire’s throne, a modern incarnation of the elegance and glamour that characterized the 1930s.
“There’s no one else we could have imagined,” said Evening at Pops producer William Cosel, “who could have done this tribute with the style and grace and invention of Tommy Tune. Fred Astaire was his mentor.” The tribute will feature Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings teaming up for a selection of Astaire classics, then joining the orchestra for a rendition of “Sweet Sorrow.” The American Ballroom Dance Theater steps in with an elegant Astaire-style dance pastiche taped at New “York City’s Brooklyn Museum.
Rounding out the month on July 29 is Mr. Wonderful, also known as Sammy Davis Jr. Joining the show business pro who got his start more than fifty years ago will be violinist Tamara Smirnova-Sajfar, the new concertrnistress of the Boston Pops Orchestra.
It would seem hard to top a month like that, but Evening at Pops intends to try throughout its new season. Later in the summer and fall, viewers of Channel 13 can look forward to Pops performances by mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, pianist Andre Watts, songstress Dionne Warwick, trumpeter Byron Stripling, and the sleepy-eyed Perry Como in a special tribute in Bing Crosby.