News / Arts & Entertainment

    Boston Symphony Makes Music in Mountains

    Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony, at dusk. (Stu Rosner)
    Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony, at dusk. (Stu Rosner)
    LENOX, Massachusetts — Open-air classical music concerts are now a summer tradition in the United States. However, that wasn't the case 75 years ago, when the Boston Symphony first performed on a former estate called Tanglewood in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts.

    Since then, Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony.

    When Serge Koussevitzy, the Russian-born conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, opened Tanglewood in 1937, he chose an all-Beethoven program, including the Pastorale Symphony. When conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi opened the 75th anniversary season in early July 2012, he recreated it.

    Beethoven’s musical tribute to nature, complete with bird calls, seems a perfect companion to the charms of Tanglewood.
    Boston Symphony Sounds in Berkshire Mountains
    Boston Symphony Sounds in Berkshire Mountains i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    When you walk through the trees and open fields of the campus, you come across music everywhere: French horn players rehearsing Strauss in a cabin in the woods, a string quartet playing contemporary music on a concert hall stage, two trumpets rehearsing Beethoven in a barn.

    "It’s a place where music and nature come together in the most wonderfully natural way," says conductor John Williams, who has composed many well-known movie scores.

    The Oscar-winning composer has come to Tanglewood every summer since 1980, when he was named music director of the Boston Pops. "We learn something about ourselves as musicians and as listeners, out here every day, when we’re here among the trees and the beautiful weather and so on."
    John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)
    x
    John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)
    John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)

    Boston Symphony managing director Mark Volpe oversees the 1,000 employees and volunteers from a Victorian house on the property.
     
    "Every city has a concert hall. What makes the Boston Symphony absolutely unique in the world of orchestras is Tanglewood," Volpe says. "Tanglewood really is the grand daddy of this notion of a summer venue."

    When Koussevitzky began conducting at Tanglewood during its first season - in the middle of the Great Depression - the orchestra played in a tent. After a thunderstorm damaged the tent, the Boston Symphony built a modest, but more permanent structure: a shed with a dirt floor in the auditorium and wooden seats. And, with the exception of a little acoustical fine tuning, the structure has basically remained the same.  

    Over the decades, Tanglewood has attracted some of the world's finest musicians, not only to perform, but to teach. Giants like Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were fixtures for years and, these days, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax are among the faculty of the Music Center, which is a training ground for young musicians. Every summer 150 of them, most of whom are in their early twenties, study at Tanglewood for free.  

    They also perform at Tanglewood.
    Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)
    x
    Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)
    Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)

    Tom Rolfs, now the principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony who also teaches at Tanglewood, first came as an 18-year-old student.

    "The very first day I sat down in the orchestra and Seiji Ozawa was on the podium," he says, "and then, Leonard Bernstein. So, if that doesn’t change your life, nothing will. "

    All the music making in the world wouldn’t mean  anything without an audience, and they come in droves. About 350,000 tickets are sold every summer.  

    One recent weekend, Greg Passin made the three-hour drive from New York City to meet friends, have a picnic and listen to Beethoven.

    "It’s relaxed, but it feels very, not formal, but ritualized in a way, right?" says Passin. "People are coming with their chairs and their tables and their bottles of wine and, clearly, it’s something they do all the time and have very specific ways of doing it. So, it’s the social aspect, as well as the musical."

    Some, like World War II veteran Bob Rosenblatt, have been coming for decades. His first visit was in 1947 and he's been a volunteer usher for 40 years.   

    "Every concert’s my first," Rosenblatt says. "Doesn’t it sound Pollyannaish?  But it’s true."

    Tanglewood officially celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a gala concert, featuring Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams and James Taylor. There will be more gala evenings throughout the summer in the Berkshires.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    New in Music Alley

    Soul Lounge: Sweet Honey in the Rocki
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 10, 2016 1:48 PM
    For over 40 years Sweet Honey In The Rock has entertained audiences around the globe with their signature blend of Blues, African, Gospel and R&B. The Grammy award winning group stopped by The Soul Lounge to perform and share their story as well as how they plan to keep African American musical traditions alive.

    For over 40 years Sweet Honey In The Rock has entertained audiences around the globe with their signature blend of Blues, African, Gospel and R&B.   The Grammy award winning group stopped by The Soul Lounge to perform and share their story as well as how they plan to keep African American musical traditions alive.