Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
On Saturday we journeyed all together to San Francisco where the This is Reno readers met Arthur Fiedler, the storied conductor of the Boston Pops. He invited us to a concert the SF Pops Orchestra was giving in Stern Grove. This Sunday morning, out 19th Avenue we go, (six feet apart), for some music!
The hour came for the concert – Fiedler, resplendent in a white morning coat with tails, his silver mane tumbling over his collar, strode onto the music pavilion of Stern Grove, as he had done before on half-a-dozen summer days before. The crowd knew they were in for a treat.
As is custom, he shook the hand of the first violin – the San Francisco Pops Orchestra’s captain. He raised the baton, and mesmerized the Grove’s denizens for two hours – Aaron Copeland, Sibelius, the Gershwins – their Rhapsody in Blue brought tears to all our peepers. Most of the repertoire was taken from composers still among us.
And then – the moment that all awaited. Five thousand people in Stern Grove knew it was coming, marked by the seven introductory notes of “Ta-ra-ra-boom-dee-yay.” Now I know that younger column readers, if such there be, never heard of Aaron Copeland, Arthur Fiedler or probably Karl Breckenridge and think I must be daft, but all knew that the concert would end with Fiedler’s signature “Song Fest.” One of the greatest thrills I’ve ever known was hearing five thousand voices – the strong, the soft, the young and those older – lifting their voices in unison, almost, to the music they’d waited a year to hear, and many who had played every stunt in the world to gain admission to Stern Grove, where the tickets were free but “sold” out almost a year ago. One could probably hear us to Stonestown.
Some used the lyrics sheets available on each table, but most had grown up with the tunes and averred the sheets, singing from memory – “Sweet Adeline”…”Bicycle Built for Two”… “Tavern in the Town” …. “Mandy” … and a half-hour’s worth of such old barbershop tunes – for some reason, the Cal fight song was quite popular. A couple tunes came from “The Music Man” which was newly on Broadway… a couple more from Rodgers & Hammerstein, then “You’ll never walk alone” and “Sunrise, Sunset” became instant favorites new to the Song Fest perennial collection.
The music ended, but no one moved for a while, content to enjoy the shade and finish their wine. I rejoined the Fiedler party, which was actually about a dozen people. Most boarded large sedans for the trip back to their host hotel – the St. Francis, as I recall. Dr. Fiedler and I roughed it, he again in his white helmet, catching a fire truck, for this trip a “triple,” not the aerial we rode out to Stern Grove.
I was amused to see the firemen on that apparatus snap to at the sight of the white fire helmet, emblematic the world around of a fire chief. Fiedler’s had “SFFD” and “Fiedler” on the crown, proof that he didn’t just find it lying somewhere on a shelf…
Inbound on 19th Avenue we traveled, with the flow of the heavy traffic – no drama from the siren or red lights – just a few of the guys out for a Sunday ride (in the patois of San Franciscans, “inbound” is travel toward the Ferry Building……).
We arrived at our respective homes on Bush Street, and disembarked the LaFrance. I thanked Fiedler and Chief Murray profusely, and crossed Bush Street to my basement room in Dair House – kicked off my shoes and flopped down on the bed.
“Did all this really happen to me…?”
So there you have it, This is Reno readers; a day and a concert in San Francisco. Tomorrow, back to Reno we’ll go and start a new week – be safe, huh?
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Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.