You spread a blanket on the grass, and you sit with friends, sharing sourdough bread and cheddar and fresh strawberries. You come early to sit under the spreading trees, and the lawn is alive with children running, teens throwing glowing frisbees and picnickers who have gone all-out with candles and bottles of wine. And then the voices around you quiet for a high and melting cello solo. Or James Taylor strums a chord.
Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1938. Berkshire music lovers began a concert series in the 1930s and gave the orchestra its Lenox campus of more than 210 acres of lawns and meadows.
It became a center for firy classical performances — Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with real cannon. Leonard Bernstein came as a student to the first class of what is now the Tanglewood Music Center, and Tanglewood’s founder, Serge Koussevitzgy, became his mentor. And today it draws top performers — Yo-Yo Ma, Emmanuel Ax — under the baton of Andris Nelsons.
In recent years it has expanded with popular music in early and late summer, folk and rock, comedy and jazz, and now with the Tanglewood Learning Institute, its first year-round center, pairing music with film, art, theater and speakers from Tom Stoppard to Madeleine Albright.
Bernstein became a regular figure here and loved the place all his life as fiercely as in his first heady days as a student. He wrote then, ‘I have never seen such a beautiful setup in my life … (the TMC) is terrific enough to keep you going with no sleep at all.’