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BSO plan to digitize John Williams concerts almost complete

John Williams in 2016. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
John Williams in 2016. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

An effort to digitize more than 200 Boston Pops radio broadcasts conducted by John Williams from 1979 until 1991 is almost complete, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Wednesday, Williams' 91st birthday.

The project to preserve 233 live radio broadcasts that were recorded on 256 one-quarter inch reel-to-reel analog tapes that were becoming increasingly fragile and in danger of chemical deterioration was funded by grants totaling $24,000 from the Grammy Museum and the Council on Library and Information Resource.

The recordings chronicle Williams' work with guest performers from a broad spectrum of the entertainment industry: classical artists like Yo-Yo Ma and James Galway; popular stars such as Joan Baez and Ray Charles; Broadway stars like Carol Channing and Joel Grey; jazz musicians including Wynton Marsalis and Sarah Vaughan; and comedic talents such as Victor Borge.

The concerts were originally broadcast locally before being distributed to radio stations nationwide. Some feature the first concert arrangements of many of the Oscar- and Grammy-winning Williams’ film scores.

The BSO has completed the digitization process and is currently creating access files for public use. The recordings are searchable through the BSO’s performance history search engine and the public can request free access to the audio streams starting June 15.


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