The Sounds of Summer
By Kathleen Mellen
Audiences have flocked to the Berkshires for Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summertime concerts since 1936, when the musicians offered a three-concert series, under the baton of then-music director Serge Koussevitzky, in a large tent at Holmwood, a storied estate in Lenox.
That first series, which would ultimately morph into the world-renowned Tanglewood Music Festival, was attended by nearly 15,000 people.
Then, in 1937, when the festival presented its first concert at Tanglewood, a gift to the BSO from the Tappan family estate, it drew the largest crowd to ever assemble under a tent, for an all-Beethoven program.
And the love affair has continued.
Last year, 350,000 guests visited the venerable annual music festival in Lenox, which offers weekly summer concerts by the BSO, performances by the Boston Pops and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras, as well as a lineup of famed guest artists in classical, contemporary, and popular music. That number has grown significantly over the past decade, and has remained fairly constant for the past five years, or so, said Anthony Fogg, the BSO’s artistic administrator and director of Tanglewood.
“It is a reflection of increasing, renewed interest in the great music that we’re offering,” Fogg told BusinessWest.
In response to these growing demands, the BSO in February announced a $30 million expansion of its music festival’s facilities and 524 acres campus in Lenox. The new complex will include a state-of-the-art, four-building complex designed to support performance and rehearsal activities at the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC), and to serve as the home of the new Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI).
The new buildings will supplement the music festival’s main performance spaces — the 5,700-seat Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed, built in 1938, and the 1,200-seat Seiji Ozawa Hall, named for BSO’s former, long-time music director (1973-2002), built in 1984.
We see this as a way of increasing the flow of visitors to the Berkshires. It will be a beautiful facility, with acoustics of the first order, dining facilities, and the possibility for recording. I’m confident it’s going to be a very attractive venue, and we hope the community will embrace it.”
“We’re very much viewing this as a long-term investment in classical music as an art form, which is essential to our lives,” Fogg said in a recent interview.
The new building complex, scheduled to open in spring 2019, has been designed by William Rawn Associates, led by William Rawn and Cliff Gayley. It will be located at the top of the lawn leading down to Ozawa Hall, which was also designed by the architectural firm. The new facilities will be climate-controlled, which Fogg says will offer an opportunity for members of the larger community to use the space during the off-season, for such things as conferences, celebrations, and musical performances.
“We see this as a way of increasing the flow of visitors to the Berkshires,” he said. “It will be a beautiful facility, with acoustics of the first order, dining facilities, and the possibility for recording. I’m confident it’s going to be a very attractive venue, and we hope the community will embrace it.”
In Concert with the Environment
The expansion is part of a multi-year fund-raising effort, which has received donations from private and corporate donors, which Fogg declined to name at this time, saying Tanglewood will make a formal announcement about fund-raising sometime this summer.
To date, enough money has been raised to cover the cost of building the complex itself, but further funds will ensure there is a well-funded endowment to cover future operating expenses and programming, he noted, adding that the ultimate fund-raising goal is in the neighborhood of $40 million.
At the heart of the four-building project will be Studio 1, a 200-seat concert space designed with Tanglewood’s signature setting in mind. The festival’s iconic, 100-foot-tall red oak tree and the landscape beyond will be visible through a wall of glass that measures 30 feet high by 50 feet wide, and which will serve as an expansive backdrop to the stage. A 50-foot-wide retractable glass wall, also part of the design, will open directly out to a porch and the surroundings.
“We wanted to keep a sense of an easy relationship between the buildings and the landscape,” Fogg said. “We were very conscious of maintaining a feeling of openness and airiness. You can’t only hear some of the greatest musicians and some of the greatest music of all time, but you do it in this transparent atmosphere.”
Studios 2 and 3 will offer rehearsal and performance space for small and medium-sized ensembles, and can accommodate audiences of 60 and 40, respectively. For flexibility, Fogg said, all the spaces can quickly and easily convert from one use to another.
In addition, the buildings are designed to take advantage of new sound and recording technology, and “are wired to the maximum,” he said. “They are decked out to embrace whatever new technology comes along. There are very exciting possibilities.”
We have a situation where our fellows are really overcrowded and working in conditions which are not the most conducive to the best work. Ozawa Hall [where the fellows rehearse and perform] is probably the most-scheduled facility on the campus. It goes from 6 in the morning until 1 in the morning, and we found that fellows are starting dress rehearsals for upcoming concerts at 10 p.m. That’s not the right sort of working environment.”
A 150-seat café housed in the complex will become a hub for visitors, TMC fellows and faculty, TLI participants, and performing artists, and a place where visitors and musicians can interact.
Among the beneficiaries of the new space will be the Tanglewood Music Center, a world-renowned summer institute created in 1940 by Koussevitzky to further the tradition of classical music, and to serve as an American center for advanced musical study for young professional instrumentalists, singers, composers, and conductors. About 1,500 musicians compete annually for roughly 150 positions, and those who are accepted receive fellowships that cover tuition, room, and board. Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, and Sarah Caldwell were among its first students.
But, frankly, Fogg said, space has become a problem for the program and its participants.
“We have a situation where our fellows are really overcrowded and working in conditions which are not the most conducive to the best work,” he noted. “Ozawa Hall [where the fellows rehearse and perform] is probably the most-scheduled facility on the campus. It goes from 6 in the morning until 1 in the morning, and we found that fellows are starting dress rehearsals for upcoming concerts at 10 p.m. That’s not the right sort of working environment.”
The new facility will address those and other needs by providing significantly more rehearsal and performance space for the TMC, and will enhance, support, and streamline activities to assure that Tanglewood continues to attract the most competitive class of fellows.
Knowing the Score
The new complex will also be home to Tanglewood Learning Center, which will offer all-new programming designed to provide the festival’s patrons with an array of educational and enrichment experiences that encourage a closer connection between artists and audiences, including seminars and panel discussions, film presentations, conversations with artists, and access to special concerts and master classes.
“An artist can come here and not only have the opportunity to give a great performance, but also spend a couple of days talking about how they got to that point — about the work they are doing … the process of creation,” Fogg said. “Those sorts of insights into the way an artist thinks, I think, will be absolutely key.”
Special offerings will include a ‘passport program,’ which will allow subscribers access to BSO and TMC closed rehearsals, TMC master classes, and backstage visits with musicians, guest artists, and conductors, among other activities.
“This will be an opportunity for those who are already aficionados of classical music, who already have some knowledge, to deepen their knowledge,” Fogg said. “It’s also an opportunity for those who are a little on the outside, who may want to find out more about classical music — why it works, why it’s important, and how it fits into our lives.”
The new buildings will be the first year-round structures at Tanglewood, with both heating and air-conditioning, and have been designed with an eye toward sustainability.
“We’re looking for LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] status,” Fogg said, “and we believe we will be able to achieve Gold.”
To that end, natural ventilation and abundant day lighting are designed to minimize energy use. Other notable sustainable features include rainwater harvesting for irrigation; high-efficiency mechanical systems with low-velocity ductwork, meeting acoustic requirements; efficient LED theatrical lighting; water-saving plumbing fixtures; red-cedar cladding harvested from renewable sources; and recyclable zinc roofing.
“We have been extremely mindful of all of these things,” Fogg said. “We’re doing the best we can to achieve the highest standard of responsiveness to the environment, which is so important.”
In addition to the buildings, a new horticultural initiative, designed by landscape architects at Reed Hilderbrand, will revitalize and strengthen Tanglewood’s bucolic landscape, with the planting of 144 trees, improvements to stormwater-management systems and pedestrian walkways, and the restoration of views of the 372-acre Lake Mahkeenac, also known as the Stockbridge Bowl. A new horticultural-stewardship program will create and implement uniform strategies for documenting, maintaining, preserving, and enhancing Tanglewood’s horticultural assets.
“Tanglewood’s expansive setting is both a blessing and a curse,” Fogg said. “It offers the opportunity to do fantastic things, but it’s also a great responsibility … we’re taking this as an opportunity to see how we can find a unity of approach to the grounds.”
In Harmony with History
A groundbreaking ceremony will take place later this summer, at a date to be announced. Organizers hope Tanglewood luminaries will be on hand, and are in the process of trying to accommodate the hectic schedules of some of its artistic principals, including BSO’s music director, Andris Nelsons; Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart; and the Pops’ conductor laureate, John Williams.
“Their schedules are incredibly complicated,” Fogg said. “But, it [the groundbreaking] will be toward the end of the season. The construction company needs to start work absolutely as soon as the season finishes, to try to get as much done before the winter hits. They are optimistic, confident, that we can move toward an opening in spring of 2019.”
Thus begins the start of a new chapter in the history of one of the region’s great destinations — and a summer home for music lovers of all ages.