What is Tanglewood and How Does It Work?

tanglewood_logoThere are many reasons to come to the Berkshires.  But the granddaddy of all is the Boston Symphony, which has been spending its summers here since 1937.

Tanglewood, a “great estate” between Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts – was named that because Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Tanglewood Tales” while a tenant in one of its outbuildings.  Concerts are held in the yard behind the mansion, lawn 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 call it a “shed,” and the name has stuck since.   The venue is open-air, but the Shed roof covers 6,000 seats.  There is room for 12,000 more on the “Lawn.”



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.

tanglewood_smallerThe “Tanglewood Season” runs roughly from the last weekend in 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 is a Jazz Festival.

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.

6cb191505af1a742In between classical music offerings, Tanglewood also offers a “Popular Artist Series” and 2011 includes Steely Dan, Train and Earth Wind & Fire.

Tickets for the Lawn are always affordable.   Usually less than $20 for classical shows and $30 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 $75.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.