“In August 1934, a group of music-loving Berkshire summer residents arranged for members of the New York Philharmonic to perform three outdoor concerts…”
-from the Tanglewood website
So began the Tanglewood Festival, which Lenox, MA is proud to host. Many, many years and performances later, the festival draws visitors annually from around the world: 350,000 visitors, to be exact. Have YOU visited the festival? Which memorable performance made your visit special – which one made you realize that you had to come back again?
The focus of the festival is classical music offerings – after all, the festival is also the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra itself is even older than the festival, having been founded in 1881, and maintaining a level of artistry that is world-renowned.
Though the classical music offerings are at the heart of the festival, popular music also makes some appearances – James Taylorand his band take the stage July 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Jazz is also represented, though the Tanglewood Jazz Festival that normally occupies the final weekend (Labor Day weekend) is not occurring this year. Some jazz performances have been streamlined into the regular season lineup however, for example, Diana Krall appears on June 23rd. Non-musical offerings this season include a visit from A Prairie Home Companion and performances by the Mark Morris Dance Group.
Because we love to make your life simple and elegant, we’ve created a list of the 75th anniversary lineup here on our site for your convenience: 2012 Tanglewood Festival lineup. And here is a handy link for purchasing tickets to the festival.
Make sure to book your rooms early if you are attending the festival! And please call (1-800-203-0656) or email us if you have any questions about the festival season. We’re festival season pros and we’re happy to help in any way we can.
It has been a while since we did a blog on celebrity relationships at Hampton Terrace. Time to get back to it.
Last month we were honored to host Jerry Williams from California for a week. Jerry is a semi-retired percussionist... who has performed on more than 750 movie scores. Jerry, and his wife Shirley, were in town to enjoy "John Williams Movie Night," conducted by his brother....John Williams, of course.
Did John stay here? Not necessary, because John has a 30+ year relationship with the Berkshires and has his own 2-bedroom cottage (with grand piano) on the grounds of Blantyre.
But he did visit Jerry here at Hampton Terrace, and he played our Steinway Grand. Not content to let that be a "word of mouth" rumor for either Hampton Terrace or the Steinway, we asked Jerry if he would mind asking John to document his visit.
Within the week, the following note arrived:
I consider this extraordinarily generous on the part of John, of course, who took the time to send a letter from California. But especially from Jerry. This is akin to asking a girl if she would fix you up with her better-looking best friend.
But having spent a week with Jerry and his wife, I detected nothing but great respect and admiration for his brother, and a sense of awe at what John has accomplished. In my opinion, John Williams will be remembered as the greatest composer of this generation, and most probably of the century.
John's trip to our piano was not a serendipity. He has a passion for pianos, according to Jerry, and was especially intrigued by this one.
Our 1929 Steinway "L" has been played by many of the world's most famous musicians and singers, including Arthur Fiedler, Emanuel Ax, Van Cliburn, Roberta Peters, Robert Merrill, Jerome Hines, Robert Shaw, Claudio Arrau, Alicia de LaRocha, and others. Many signed the pin block.
How that came to be...will be the subject of another blog.
But add John Williams. Jerry has promised to be back. We are hoping it will be as soon as next summer, when it is a certainty that Tanglewood will do something special for John's 80th birthday.
Everyone knows the theater companies in the Berkshires are Broadway-quality. In fact, most of the summer productions are populated with Tony Award winners and nominees.
Notable actors and directors come to the Berkshires because (1) productions run just several weeks, therefore it is possible to shoehorn a performance between other theater, television or movie obligations, (2) the productions are of such a high level that working in the Berkshires is actually resume-building, and (3) they know the local audiences are appreciative, supportive and sophisticated.
So today we feature Barrington Stage Company, which has a brand new theater right off North Street in Pittsfield.
Julie Boyd, founder and driving force behind every facet of the company, chose the current location because of her penchant for staging lavish musicals. Formally located in Great Barrington (thus the name), Barrington Stage Company wanted to participate in the cultural revival of Pittsfield, and have a location equally convenient to north and south county. The theater she found has a large stage and orchestral pit and as of now, is completely restored and in service.
Fortune smiled upon the company when one of its experimental productions, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," found its way to Broadway, earned several Tony Awards, and then generated licensing funds which were steered into the new facilities.
The company also presents traditional theater in this venue, as well as in smaller-scale venues near-by.
This year's season is already underway and can be seen by clicking on the Barrington Stage website.
It is important to note that local theaters run six or seven days per week, allowing patrons to maximize their days in the Berkshires. In other words, if you plan to patronize Tanglewood on the weekends, why not add several days before or after the weekend to experience Shakespeare and Company, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Jacob's Pillow and dozens of other Berkshire stages? That does not even cover the musical offerings beyond Tanglewood which go six or seven nights per week.
If you stay at Hampton Terrace in Lenox, you will not be wondering what to do with your time. We have assembed lists and resources to help you plan your stay. For your free guide to Berkshire offerings:
We have a coffee-table-sized book in our living room which gets the most wear of any other. Co-written by our friend, Nini Gilder, "Houses of the Berkshires" is well-researched and packed with rare photos never before assembled in a narrative about the impact the Gilded Age crowd and their architects had on the local countryside.
We bought the book the week it was published, but due to the limited market for it, it was soon out of print.
But thankfully, a revised edition has been created and is on sale at TheBookLoft.com. Until June 11th, it is 20% off.
I completely recommend this book as required reading for anyone who loves the Berkshires.
The Great Estates and the clusters of mansions that line the streets of Lenox, Stockbridge and Great Barrington represent the well-spring of all that is cultural about our area.
The Tanglewood estate became the summer home of the Boston Symphony. Cranwell, Wheatleigh, Blantyre, Canyon Ranch, Eastover and Kripalu's property are all estates that have become resorts and spas. The local Stanford White-designed gambling house became the Berkshire Theatre Festival. The critical mass of culture attracted Norman Rockwell, Sterling Clark and the founders of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Ventfort Hall, The Mount, Chesterwood and Naumkeag have become historic house tours and museums. Elm Court hosts high-end weddings. Belvoir Terrace is a presigious arts camp. This list could go on and on.
So...who built these houses and why? What did they look like in their day?
First step....buy the book. Second step, plan a trip to Hampton Terrace and let us help you see every house you can. Since 1999, we have had 15,000 couples stay at Hampton Terrace and I assure you, they do not spend their days here staring at the walls. We send people out to sightsee and we have prepared lists to help them plan their stay. Want your list?
With the "Tanglewood" Season upon us, the Berkshire Eagle called lodging properties across the county to see how the summer was looking.
Titled, "Strong Tourism Season Expected This Year," Clarence Fanto highlighted special events, unique to this summer, which are helping to drive traffic into the inns.
North County is benefiting from MassMoCa's Wilco Solid Sound Festival, which was such a hit last year the concept is being repeated. Pittsfield and Great Barrington are each celebrating their 250th anniversaries with special programs.
And Tanglewood is filling three weekends prior to the arrival of the BSO, starting with the British Motorcar Festival the weekend of June 17th, Earth Wind and Fire the weekend of the 25th, and four James Taylor concerts leading into July 4th.
They also are helping the economy with several significant mid-week popular music shows, Steely Dan and Train.
For some Hampton Terrace quotes, click through to the article. Most of our weekends are already filled, but there are some openings still. Our "Mid-Week Special" of $199/night is filling the gaps between the weekends, as usual.
But there is still availability most weeks, so check with us.
Over 180 items to consider.....Tanglewood, theater and museum admissions, inn and hotel packages, dinners, summer camps, spa days, items from Berkshire retail shops and galleries....
Bidding has begun and it is all on-line. Bidding closes on June 5th, so you will know within 2 weeks if you have won your item.
BID ON A WEEKEND AT HAMPTON TERRACE! We donated a 2-night stay, worth $400+. Current bid is $120...so you might get a bargain visit...with all proceeds going to a good cause.
Some of the items are unique opportunities...not normally open to the public. For example, a chance to spend a day in the kitchen with a local chef, or tours of the private spaces and collections at some of the museums.
All proceeds will create a Berkshires Marketing Fund to replace shrinking state tourism marketing funds.
To keep our favorite venues, museums, restaurants and lodging establishments open and thriving, we all must all participate in the effort to keep our area on the tourism radar. That takes money, and if you look at the diversity of the auction items, you understand that this is an issue that everyone is taking very seriously.
So whether you are a local or a visitor, click below to see the auction items....and have fun bidding!
James Taylor lives in Lenox. We see him in the coffee shop, grocery store line.... of course, every summer at Tanglewood for multiple shows.
Many of our guests know this and ask.... why here? Notwithstanding the fact that among his most famous lines...
Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
So why does he live here, in a town of less than 5,000? I ran across an interview with him in Berkshire Living Magazine. Rather than paraphrase...here is the link.
Taylor's wife, Kim, was marketing director for the Boston Symphony, and much of her job centered around promoting Tanglewood, down the street. She is from Albany, an hour away, and went to college in North Hampton, an hour the other direction...so landing in the Berkshires was natural for her.
And for James as well, having spent part of his 20s in Stockbridge. He met Kim at Tanglewood in 1993 at a John Williams conducted Pops concert. They married in 2001.
But the deciding factor was when they had twin boys in 2002. They started looking for a place to raise their sons...and after careful consideration, and a couple of false starts in other places, they landed in Lenox.
Tanglewood itself is the major beneficiary of this decision. James performs multiple shows every summer, with the majority of the cash flow remaining at the venue as a contribution. This has amounted to millions of dollars.
But going beyond Tanglewood....little known is the fact that Taylor jumped into action within days of the Haiti earthquake to do what he could to help.
He arranged a private show at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington (680 seats), and said he would match all ticket proceeds with a personal donation. WAMC Northeast Public Radio broadcast the show live to solicit call-in donations. When the show sold out quickly, Taylor added a second show the next night. Total donations collected: $600,000. From the concept of the idea...to the end of the second show...less than a week.
Welcome to the Berkshires...where there the quality of life never ceases to amaze. Come visit!
Photos by Stan Grossfield/Courtesy of the Boston Globe
Earth Wind & Fire. Yo Yo Ma with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Opening night of the Boston Symphony Season.
Whoa! And that is just from June 25 to July 8.....and does not include four performances by some local guy named James Taylor in the middle.
At some point I will wake up from this dream....that entertainment of this level is happening literally a walk from my front door. And yours too, if you stay at Hampton Terrace.
This morning, Tanglewood sent out a link for easy on-line purchase of tickets for these four performances.
We still have rooms at Hampton Terrace for all except the Saturday night Garrison Keillor show.
For a complete Tanglewood Summer Schedule, CLICK HERE.
To CHECK AVAILABILITY at Hampton Terrace, CLICK HERE.
The Boston Globe has proclaimed the Berkshires "an aggregation of performing arts unmatched anywhere in the country."
So I would be irresponsible if I did not spend considerable energy letting you know the details.
Yesterday I covered the summer plans for Shakespeare and Company. But in doing my research, I ran into a website called "Berkshire on Stage" which essentially does much of my work for me. In that particular post, blogger Larry Murray was touting the line-up at Barrington Stage Company this summer.
But I noticed his blog several days ago which presents an overview of the summer. Since "going viral" is the dream of every blog, I am sure Larry will not mind if I lift directly from his post and share his research and opinions:
A Berkshire First-Timer Primer
You don’t need a theatre ticket to soak up the food, natural beauty, history, night life and fabulousness of the Berkshires during the summer. The Berkshires have plenty to offer, and are not only family friendly, but also nature friendly, gay friendly, pet friendly, vegan friendly and meditation friendly. In fact, the rural diversity of the area is surprisingly welcoming to all – both urbane and down to earth at the same time, a winning combination. There is no app for it. You have to come here to experience it.
Many who visit remark on the less frantic change of pace, one which lends itself for the one thing that distinguishes the area above all others, its wealth of arts offerings. Mention the Berkshires and most people automatically think of Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, when they think of this area. Or Jacob’s Pillow, the magnet for dance in America. And lately the Solid Sound Festival and Chicago’s Wilco at the mammoth Mass MoCA museum.
But quietly the Berkshires has become a buzz word among a new crowd, the serious theatre-goer. Not that theatre is new to the Berkshires, all of our companies have distinguished histories. But lately they have been creeping into the national news as the companies have been flourishing, expanding, and drawing ever-bigger crowds.
Once the theaters were thought to be for the summer crowd, but then , the locals discovered them too. These days you’ll find more residents than ever in the lines to get tickets for the really hot shows.
And local audiences can be tough audiences to please. They set the bar pretty high. Perhaps that is because the year-rounders, who endure the bitter cold winters, are hardy old souls, but once engaged by a play or musical, their hearts can melt like snowflakes under the spring sun. It happens a lot, and it is wonderful to see their smiles and hear their laughter. Makes living here year round even more enjoyable.
The Four Major Theatres and their Ten Stages
Located on the hilly and mountainous Western edge of Massachusetts, Berkshire County has a modest population of 130,000 hardy souls who benefit from being just a few hours from the bright lights of Broadway. In fact, many New Yorkers consider the Berkshires their summer hideaway, including dozens of performers, directors and playwrights. Even Bostonians, with their nearby siren call of Cape Cod are heading West to revisit the sometimes forgotten treasures of their own home state. I would gladly sign a petition to change the nickname from the Bay State to the Cultural State.
The four resident professional theatre companies contribute ten of the Berkshires’s two dozen stages to the culture count, with the balance at Tanglewood, the Pillow and three “presenting” organizations talked about below. And just behind this lineup are many more organizations who keep the Berkshires hopping from January to December.
Berkshire Theatre Festival (BTF) of Stockbridge and Pittsfield
The BTF is the granddaddy of the theatre companies, having been founded in 1928 and operating continuously since then, with the exception of 1942-45 which were the years when America fought WWII. Their main stage is a repurposed old casino which was dragged by oxen from Main Street Stockbridge, MA and has seen America’s greatest actors on its stage. It holds about 400 people. It is just a short drive from the famed Norman Rockwell Museum.
This summer the Fitzpatrick Main Stage will host Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams, and the world premiere of In the Mood by Kathleen Clark.
The smaller Unicorn theatre only holds about 120, so every seat is close to the stage and because of its stadium seating angles, has excellent sight lines. Moonchildren will open the season there, followed by Dutch Masters and Finian’s Rainbow. Two plays will get world premieres at the Unicorn – the aforementioned Dutch Masters by Greg Keller and Birthday Boy by Chris Newbound.
The BTF recently merged with the Colonial Theatre and will share programming back and forth with it for the first time this summer. Thus three stages will be lit by this company.
The Colonial Theatre has its own extensive calendar of events and provides state of the art technical and production support for musicals and large dramas, like A Christmas Carol, while the Unicorn is being viewed as an ideal location for cabaret and jazz offerings, as well as solo performers.
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox
Also with three theaters, ShakesCo offers its usual mix of classics and contemporary plays in its 33rd Season. When not bringing Shakespeare back to life, they offer hilarious comedy and farce. So the Founder’s Theatre is where you will find the doomed lovers Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, but their main house will also welcome the return of The Hound of the Baskervilles, a hilarious sendup of all things Conan Doyle with breakneck costume changes and cross-dressing spoofery.
The Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre is a smaller “flex space” where crowds will flock to see Red Hot Patriot: the Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivans alternating with two other shows. The outdoor Rose Footprint Theatre is a destination for families, and this year the commedia dell’arte includes The Venetian Twins and the brand new Everyman/EveryActor.
Also on their bill of fare are The 39 Steps, The Learned Ladies and Women of Will with Tina Packer.
Barrington Stage Company (BSC)
The ingenue in our cast of great theaters is the Barrington Stage Company, founded just fifteen years ago by Julianne Boyd, and attracting nationwide attention for its excellent work. It has already sent several shows to Broadway, including William Finn’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Whipping Man and Freud’s Last Session. With a special knack for musicals, this summer includes the evergreen Guys and Dolls and The Game on the Main Stage. Also on the main stage is the premiere of Mark St. Germain’s The Best of Enemies. Stage 2 will host the premiere of the musical Mormons, Mothers and Monsters as well as Going to St. Ives, My Name is Asher Lev and Zero Hour, a one man show about Zero Mostel.
Their youth company also attracts numerous fans, this year presenting All Shook Up, a celebration of Elvis Presley at St. Joseph High School plus another location TBA.
At several points during the summer they will have three stages lit at the same time. And in October they will present a staged version of Lord of the Flies.
Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF)
While the first three companies are year-round residents and offer programming in the September-May slot, the WTF is only able to perform during the summer when it avails itself of two new theaters at Williams College. In essence it was a company begun 56 years ago by the college, and its friends, and it has grown and prospered as a visionary company with impeccable quality.
Two classic plays will light the Main Stage at the 62 Center this year: George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take it With You and Oliver Goldsmith’s rowdy comedy, She Stoops to Conquer. Closing the main stage season will be the Revue-sical Ten Cents A Dance, celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hart.
The recently announced Nikos Theatre season is one in which two classics, A Streetcar Named Desire and A Doll’s House can be seen in the intimate confines of this smaller theatre, as well as several new works, Lewis Black’s One Slight Hitch, the East Coast Premiere of Bess Wohl’s Touch(ed), and The Civilians’ production of You Better Sit Down: tales from my parents’ divorce.
Other Berkshire Venues
You will find a trio of “presenting” theaters in the Berkshires as well. Down south, in Great Barrington is another glorious restored theatre, The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, whose marquee will feature names like Joan Rivers, Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Wailers, Peter Yarrow and soprano Deborah Voigt.
At Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre there is not only The Who’s Tommy, but Tommy Tune and Tom Paxton plus far too many others to detail here.
In North Adams the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts has more than visual appeal, it has the Hunter Center performing space and Club B-10 for cabaret sized offerings. During the summer it also schedules things outdoors, from their walk-in open-air cinema to the multiple stages and excitement of the Solid Sound Festival featuring Chicago rockers Wilco. They also play host to the Bang on a Can week long contemporary music festival.
With three stages, Jacob’s Pillow is the place to be if you love dance. The array of dance offerings is breathtaking. The Ted Shawn Theatre is their main stage, where dance companies from around the world show off their latest works. In the Doris Duke Studio Theatre, emerging companies, and those who are working on complicated new pieces allow audiences a preview of what will soon be hot, and what might not.
Families love the Inside/Out stage and its free late afternoon performances most summer days. Set in the open air in the woods, the stage is being completely rebuild for 2011 and offers both samples of the companies performing there, and showcases the students at its school. The quality is high, the experience magical.
The BSO’s summer home is the place that began it all in the Berkshires. SInce 1936 the small orchestra encampment has grown, with the famous Shed also playing host to such well known artists as James Taylor, though this year he will be performing in the more intimate Ozawa Hall. There is also a theatre where opera and other staged works can be performed. It took us four articles to detail everything happening there.
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four
The great lawn, meticulously maintained, offers concert-goers the delightful experience of a picnic with live classical music, overlooking the beautiful Stockbridge Bowl. The only question on some people’s minds is whether the BSO’s Music Director, James Levine, who has been struggling with back problems, will be able to fulfill his scheduled performances. Even so, the BSO has one of the most impressive rosters of alternate conductors I have ever seen, so while missing the maestro might be a disappointment, the joy of discovering a fresh and upcoming conductor makes the gamble irresistible.
Tanglewood remains the Berkshires best known attraction, but the crowds who are arriving for other events are – in aggregate – beginning to outnumber those of the reigning diva for the first time. These new audiences are younger, more adventurous and who knows, they may take a night off from theatre to take in a concert. Now that would be a switch to the conventional thinking, wouldn’t it.
With so much on the calendar, the Berkshires offer as much culture in the summer as you will find in most major cities, and in an idyllic setting that still is pretty tough to top.
There 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, 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."
In 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.
The "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. SCHEDULE FOR ALL SHOWS
In 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.