Fenway Park may no longer have Terry Francona and Jonathan Papelbon, but this year, as a 100th-birthday present, it is getting its very own “Fanfare for Fenway.’’ Is there a musical “Ode to Wrigley Field’’ or “Salute to Yankee Stadium’’? Certainly not one composed by Oscar-winner John Williams and recorded by one of the world’s great orchestras.
Saturday afternoon, members of the Boston Pops assembled at Symphony Hall to record Williams’s new composition, with the composer on the podium.
Composed at the Red Sox’ request, “Fanfare for Fenway’’ is a short piece scored for six trumpets, six horns, five trombones, two tubas, timpani, and percussion. The session started promptly at 2:30 p.m. in a Symphony Hall empty save for a number of buffering drapes covering seats and hanging from the second balcony.
Dressed in a comfortable-looking black top and trousers, Williams stepped onto the podium and swung his baton like a baseball bat before launching into the first run-through.
Over the next 55 minutes, he and the players exchanged notes about dynamics, balance, and articulation. In one passage, he asked for a more lyrical feel. A trombonist knocked the score from his stand with his slide, but made an adroit recovery. Tiny details were addressed throughout the piece, which is between three and four minutes long.
Once the recording started, the music - a stirring paean to what Williams called “the athleticism of the world-class athletes who play this game,’’ with a “Star Wars’’ kind of theme winding through it - came into sharper, clearer focus.
Williams has strong connections with Fenway. On Opening Day in 2005, when the Red Sox celebrated winning their first World Series since 1918, members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops took the field to perform his music during the ring ceremony. He was there for Game 1 of the 2007 World Series to lead his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner,’’ and the Sox won that Series, too. Maybe he’s a lucky charm.
During a break in the Saturday session, Williams explained that “Fanfare to Fenway’’ is his gift to the Red Sox in honor of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary. “My history with the Red Sox has to do with my mother, actually, who was born in 1909, right here in Boston. I heard about Fenway Park all my life from her. And I think when she was a little girl she would not have had the 35 cents to go to Fenway Park, or whatever it might have been in the 1920s. But she lived to be 97, and she said when she was 96 or so and the Red Sox finally won the World Series, that that was the reason she was so persistent in lasting so long, that she wanted to wait till they won again.
“But there was also an emotional connection in my mind between Boston and Fenway Park and the Red Sox. You think of Boston, you think of Harvard and MIT as being the brains of the city, and Faneuil Hall might be the soul. But I think the beating, pounding heart of the city for Bostonians is Fenway Park. That’s the heart of the town.’’
Williams decided to write the piece, he said, sometime last fall. “Some lovely people from the Red Sox contacted me in California and asked if I would write a celebratory piece for the rededication of Fenway Park, and I said absolutely, if I can finish my current film assignment in time. I was between motion pictures, finishing up ‘War Horse’ and about to start ‘Lincoln.’ And it was a pleasure, and I feel it a privilege to contribute in this small way to such an important part of Boston.’’
He chose the brass-and-percussion lineup, he said, “because the idea for the piece was to be a fanfare that could be played on the field at Fenway, and obviously we couldn’t have the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the outfield, it would damage the turf. So I thought, I’ll write the piece for our brass section, because it will have the decibel energy that only brass can give us.’’
So the piece will not only be played in its recorded form at Fenway this season, but could be performed live there, too? “Yes, that’s my understanding,’’ he said. “I hope we do it here, it will be fun to do.’’
Zineb Curran, senior manager of corporate communications for the Sox, declined to confirm when “Fanfare for Fenway’’ might be performed live, but she did not rule out Opening Day at Fenway Park on April 13. Perhaps Williams’s gift will help ensure that the force is with the Red Sox this year.Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org