Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 9, 2010

Tanglewood - Indoors and Out

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
by Shera Cohen

There are thousands of seats to choose from in front of the Tanglewood shed. Mine was a bit in the sun. As the afternoon progressed so did the shade. The "seats" are actually bring-your-own chairs and blankets, placed anywhere and everywhere on this ever so pristine lawn. On a Sunday afternoon with a temperature of 83 degrees and a shining sun, I was as close to nature as this city "girl" likes to get. The music of the Boston Symphony Orchestra had not yet begun, and that was just fine, as time was needed to first take in the experience of this landscape called Tanglewood.

While I did have an assigned seat in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, I immediately chose the outdoor setting instead. I was one of thousands (as mentioned) who enjoyed this open-air amphitheatre. Prime seating seemed to be under the many tall leafy trees. Families, couples, seniors, babies - it was a who's who of people that I didn't know. While watching and listening from my lawn chair (one from the 1960s and not the new fold-ups), I discovered important facts that I was unaware of: sushi can be eaten warm, people still use Red Flyers, women are quicker and more efficient than men at setting up picnics, multi-tasking is a big deal (listen to music, drink a soda, read a novel, participate in conversations), many listeners leave the concert half-way through the final movements (that seems a shame), kids aren't into Frisbees as much as they used to be, men wear Red Sox baseball caps, women wear huge straw hats, and everyone wears sun lotion. This is a colorful place - the newly cut green grass, blue sky with wisps of off-white clouds, tablecloths of flowers, and a sea of motley colored umbrellas.

The clang of bells alerted those with seats inside the shed and outside that the concert was set to start. Without fanfare, conductor Christoph Von Dohnanyi led the BSO through two exquisite compositions. My critiques of music are far from expert, which is why this article does not focus on the soft strings, trumpet alerts, and dynamic percussion. As far as this layman is concerned, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61 featuring Arabella Steinbacher deserved the long standing ovation which it and she received. Following intermission, Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G, Opus 88 was musically riveting. Not that anyone would notice, but I was among those lawn listeners who stood and applauded in awe. Was the music really captured in the breezes that surrounded me? Probably not.

My place on the lawn became a small expedition, as I walked the entire perimeter to the high bushes setting the division line between Tanglewood and the Berkshire mountains and lake. My secret place (apparently not so secret as others had been on my same course) was the maze of trees, grass, shrubs, and vineyard. Not quite edible yet, blue and green grapes hung disorderly on their vines. I ran into three teens who said to each other that they were lost, but they didn't seem to care. I observed that the longest lines were not to the women's facilities, but to Ben & Jerry's cart.

When I arrived, I had asked the gatekeepers, sitting on small stools between the parking lot and the box office, if they were able to hear the concert from their distant location. How sad it would be to sit so close and not appreciate the music. They smiled and answered, "Yes." Apparently, every "seat in the house" at Tanglewood is a great one.

(Photo Credit: Al Solomon)