Without Music, Tanglewood Is Empty, Eerie and Beautiful

LENOX, Mass. — André Bernard was three months old when he attended his first concert at Tanglewood: Benny Goodman playing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, in 1956. For nearly every one of the next 63 years, he has made a pilgrimage to the lush, sprawling lawn of this summer music mecca here in the Berkshires.

He has had a routine. Start off on the grass, ears peeled for the bell that signaled the show was about to begin. Then migrate to the Shed, the main concert hall, open on the sides. Watch the moths dart above the brasses and bows, fluttering up to the lights. Yo-Yo Ma, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Jessye Norman, Ray Charles, The Who: Mr. Bernard has seen them all here.

But he will not be able to add to that list this year. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of Tanglewood, just as it has wiped out so many other beloved summer rituals: the blockbuster in the air-conditioned multiplex, the waterfront arts festival, the sweaty stadium pop extravaganza. Throughout the country, resonant seasonal pleasures have vanished.

The loss of Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, hits particularly hard here in bucolic western Massachusetts, where the festival takes place on 524 rolling acres. Many fans, like Mr. Bernard, the vice president and secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, have been attending for decades. (Mr. Bernard practically grew up in the wings: His father played the viola in the Boston Symphony.)

The rehearsal, lecture and concert calendar has been these devoted fans’ organizing principle; second homes were bought just to be nearby. They pinned their summers to Tanglewood, which normally attracts up to 350,000 people each season.

So what is the Berkshires without Tanglewood? Relaxed? Scenic? Yes. But also empty, eerie and very much on hold.

“It’s been quiet as anything,” said Barry Sheridan, a retired doctor who lives nearby. “It’s very sad.” Losing a year of activity when you’re younger is one thing, he added, but at his age, 85, time is more precious: “You’re not sure if there will be a next year.”

Others have embraced a music-free Tanglewood, returning with a book or knitting project. On a recent Sunday, a handful of people performed a new version of their Tanglewood routines. (There was no traffic, so there was no need for the back road — the one everyone swears only he or she knows about.)

They parked all too easily; slung their fold-up camp chairs over their shoulders; and waited obediently in a socially distanced line to enter the grounds, cracking jokes behind their masks.

The lawn — a special mix of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and a variety called fine fescue, designed to withstand the footsteps of up to 18,000 music fans a night — was as supernaturally green as ever. The vista, still magnificent. The sound? No tuning. Mostly birds chirping. Save for a robin dashing from the shadow of one red maple to another, it was very still.

Sahred From Source link Arts

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