A Tanglewood Primer – One of the World’s Great Concert Venues

Some of our guests at Hampton Terrace are very familiar with Tanglewood and come back every summer.   Far many more of you have visited us during the off-season.  I frequently hear “We would love to come back in the summer.

Did you know that our Berkshires Bed and Breakfast offers discounted rates up to $70 per night during the midweek (Sunday-Thursday)? You can book rates starting at $249 all summer long!

How does Tanglewood work?”  For you…..

Tanglewood Tickets

Enjoying James Taylor 2015 on the Tanglewood Lawn are great friends and multiple-repeat guests, Nellie and Eli Brewer, Brian and Kelly Van Flandern.   With innkeepers Stan and Susan Rosen of Hampton Terrace.

Tanglewood, a “great estate” between Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts – earned its name when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Tanglewood Tales” while a tenant in one of its What is Tanglewoodoutbuildings.   The owners, the Tappans, gave their 210 acre estate to the Boston Symphony in 1936 to accommodate summer concerts that had begun the prior year.  Concerts were held in the yard behind the mansion, but when rain soaked the patrons of the second concert, work began on a pavilion.  Several downward revisions in the budget caused the architect to derisively call it a “shed,” and the name stuck.   The venue is open-air, but the Shed roof covers 6,000 seats.  There is room for 12,000 more on the “Lawn.”

Every town in America has an outdoor concert venue with covered seats and general admission lawn.  Tanglewood was the first.

Ozawa HallIn 1994, a second venue was built, Ozawa Hall.   More a concert hall than the Shed, Ozawa Hall holds 1,200 inside, but the rear can be opened, and on nice summer nights many more thousands can enjoy the music.

One of the unique features of Tanglewood is the “Lawn Nation.”  Most venues check your bags to make sure you do not smuggle in a Coke….Tanglewood encourages its lawn patrons to bring blankets and chairs, picnics and libations….and some set-ups are quite over the top.

What is TanglewoodThe “Tanglewood Season” runs roughly from the middle of June through Labor Day.   Over the last decade or two, certain traditions have sprung up:  The season begins with Garrison Keillor broadcasting “A Prairie Home Companion” nationally, and the Mark Morris Dance Group premiering a new work.  At some point during July or August, James Taylor, a Lenox resident, performs between 2 and 4 shows.  Fourth of July features a popular artist show and fireworks.   John Williams has a “movie night.”  Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops will come two or three times.   The first Tuesday in August is “Tanglewood on Parade,” a combination of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, The Boston Pops AND the Boston Symphony in a single program, which always ends with the 1812 Overture.  The final concert is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Labor Day Weekend has been traditionally a jazz festival, although other shows have been mixed in recently.

The BSO itself usually performs every Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30 and Sunday afternoons at 2:30.

But the venue is far from quiet otherwise.  Serge Koussevitzsky had the wisdom to recognize that BSO players could be great mentors and teachers, and the Tanglewood Institute was formed.  Young classical music performers of all types spend the summer at Tanglewood, where they have their own symphony, chorus and smaller ensembles.   The public can enjoy their performances almost daily, as well as world-renowned soloists and ensembles in Ozawa Hall several times per week.  SCHEDULE FOR ALL SHOWS

What is TanglewoodIn between classical music offerings, Tanglewood also offers a “Popular Artist Series.”   2016 is the season of “icons,” including Dolly Parton, Earth Wind and Fire, Brian Wilson, Chris Botti, Jackson Browne, Garrison Keillor, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, B-52s, Seth Macfarlane, Chick Corea, Train, John Williams Film Night and others.

Tickets for the Lawn are always affordable.   Usually in the $20 range for classical shows and $20-35 for popular shows.   The Shed offers tickets graded from about $30 to about $100.   Information on purchasing tickets is AVAILABLE HERE.

AN INSIDER’S TIP:   Tanglewood and the BSO are not-for-profit entities, and ticket sales cover less than half their expenses.  Therefore fundraising is important, and special considerations….such as advance sales, parking, upscale dining options, etc. are available to contributors.  “Friends of Tanglewood” levels start at $100.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

FOOD:  Tanglewood offers a number of food options on the property.   There are two large food venues on the back of the Lawn.   One offers a wide range, including salads, paninis, pizza, grilled chicken, etc.   The other is more of a burger and fry place.   There are also several food concession stands with snacks, and food carts with ice cream and such.  Beer and wine is available.  Don’t forget, you can bring in whatever food and libations you desire for the Lawn.   Food is not allowed in the Shed but there are plenty of spots to eat outside the Shed, before you go in for the show.  You can also ORDER PICNICs and pick them up from the Tanglewood concession.   Check out the website for options.

TIMING OF SCHEDULE ANNOUNCEMENTS AND TICKET SALES:   Tanglewood announces their classical summer line up in November for the following summer.   Popular music show announcements tend to happen a little later, with some shows not being set until Spring.   Generally, tickets are available for public sale roughly the last week in January.   I would always try to buy tickets directly from Tanglewood because the world is full of third-party ticket agencies who buy tickets and then mark them up for resale.   By the same token, if you find tickets are sold out for a specific show (or if you don’t like the remaining ticket choices), I would imagine you can find them (at a premium) from the same sites.   The Lawn (12,000 seats) rarely sells out – James Taylor being the exception.

ADVANCE SALE OPTIONS:   As I mentioned above under “Insider’s Tip,” you can beat the public sale crunch by becoming a supporter of Tanglewood.   The lowest level is to be a “Friend” at $100, but the more you give, the better access you have to front row seats.   And the BSO gives you plenty of perks for your contribution, including preferred parking and access to private food venues on the property.

RAIN/SHINE:    All concerts happen regardless of weather, because 6,000 seats are covered.   Many of our guests buy “rain insurance” for the Lawn by purchasing the lowest price Shed seats (usually in the $30-40 range” and then they end up sitting on the Lawn if the weather is nice.  The reverse is also possible:   If you hold Lawn tickets and it is raining, the BSO will allow you to upgrade your tickets to Shed seats at the box office – subject to availability.   The risk:   the Lawn rarely sells out but the Shed is frequently full.   You may not have the option to upgrade.

LAWN CHAIRS:   You are invited to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets to the Lawn.   The BSO does offer chairs for rent ($5 last time I checked) so if you do not want to schlepp your chairs from the parking lots, this is an option.  There is a bit of a risk, in that supply is not unlimited.

PARKING:  Parking is free and plentiful at Tanglewood.   Lots fill on a first-come, first-serve basis and you do not really have a chance to choose where you would like to park.   It is “follow-the-leader” as each lot fills up, and there are hundreds of volunteers setting up orderly rows in grassy pastures.  The lines of cars move quickly into the lots.   You might get out quickly as well – depending on your luck.   The traffic becomes one-way OUT of the venue on all roads – doubling the lanes available.   Lots empty on a somewhat random basis.   It is a large operation, between police and volunteers.   As I said, some guests might be back at the inn in 10 minutes.  Others might sit in parking lines for 30 minutes or more.   If you need handicap parking, that is also plentiful at the front gate.  The parking attendants will see your hanging sign and direct you to the right entrance.   Volunteers also are waiting with wheel chairs for those who need it.