For perhaps ten years, on the evening before every Fourth of July, there were fireworks over Boston Harbor synchronized with Handel’s “Royal Hymn to Fireworks.” When this piece was first composed to celebrate the peace treaty that put an end to the War of the Austrian Succession, the fireworks were just the background for the music. In Boston, they were the main event.
I always had a front-row seat. At the time I was working the second shift (3 to 11 p.m.) at the New England Aquarium, on a barge where the sea lions and dolphins were lodged. The band played on a patio alongside the aquarium barge, while the fireworks barge sat in the harbor just behind the aquarium. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The whole spectacle was breathtakingly beautiful. The fireworks were perfectly in sync with the music. Smoke would linger with a sustained note. Small, discreet, but extremely graceful fireworks represented the softer, slower parts. The crescendos swept you up with them. Once, as I watched and listened, it occurred to me that this was perhaps the most beautiful manmade spectacle I had ever seen.