Monday, July 24, 2017

Music Soars Under the Stars

This piece appeared first in the magazine, Edible Berkshires.

It’s a beautiful summer day in the Berkshires. You’ve spent hours biking or hiking, gardening, cutting the lawn, or playing golf or tennis. Or maybe you chose to dive into a good book lying in a hammock or out on the porch.

Now the sun is lowering. The sky is robin’s egg blue. The air is clear and in good Berkshire tradition, it’s cooling off nicely as evening approaches.

It’s time for a picnic. But not just any picnic.

You and your friends are headed to Tanglewood, where an extraordinary musical extravaganza awaits you.

A fixture in Berkshire County for more than seven decades, Tanglewood  attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer. In addition to offering up the best of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood also presents a wide range of other musical performers, from Bob Dylan to Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

The music is only half the fun. Plan yourself a moveable feast that is a picnic on the lawn. Figuring out the menu is half the fun!

Someone fixes cold chicken. Another is assigned cole slaw or potato salad. What else: cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, hummus and olives and grapes? Somebody bakes brownies for dessert. 

And of course, there will be plenty of beer and wine flowing.

Then it’s the getting there. Plan ahead, because there’s always a load of traffic coming into Lenox (for James Taylor’s performance, cars jam up the road leading from the Mass Pike!)
Be prepared to tote all your gear, too, including those awkward coolers. The walk from the parking lot is part and parcel of the experience. But it’s OK, because you’re moving en masse with a crowd of very excited concert-goers.

One of the nicest things about an evening at Tanglewood is the mood: mellow and magical. People feel like they’re going camping to celebrate a very special occasion.

As you and your crew pass through the gates, hundreds of others are already settled on the lawn. Then it’s finding the perfect spot. That means a bit of debate: should we sit here near one of the big trees, and how close to the shed? Tiptoe carefully between the blankets and chairs set up by others. 

And if you are meeting other friends, it may take lots texting to find each other.

Of course, you can picnic on the lawn and then, splurge for a ticket to and sit in the shed. It’s a lot more expensive, but one of my very best memories of Tanglewood is sitting in the front of the shed for a piano concert under the direction of conductor Claudio Abbado. I will never forget the thrill of the music: it was physical, the potent waves of energy from the piano pulsing and resonating in my chest.

As the evening wears on, the sky turns slate blue, and the stars are pinpoints of light. Some people choose to pack up the evening meal – but lots of others keep food out for grazing.

Soon the music is pouring through the shed, and the jumbo screens and gigantic speakers bring you right up to the stage.

Get ready. Sit back – or lie down. Music soars under the stars! 

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