We won’t have to make do with a virtual shed and lawn this summer! After enduring a 16-month interregnum of hermetic distancing while making do with the virtuous virtual along with their subscribers, the BSO Trustees voted unanimously yesterday to reopen Americas’ preeminent summer music festival to living, breathing, if distanced outdoor or semi-outdoor crowds. Though we will have to wait until April 8th for program details, we take pleasure in management’s revelation that the six weeks between July 9th and August 16th will include a Saturday-evening and Sunday-afternoon Boston Symphony Orchestra series; a Friday-evening series featuring recitals, special guest artists and ensembles, and the Boston Pops; and a Monday-evening Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra series. The Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s acclaimed summer music academy, will be featured in chamber music performances on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons. The Tanglewood Learning Institute—launched in summer 2019—will also offer a variety of programs in summer 2021. In addition, Tanglewood will present family, community, and education programs, as well as maintain many of its free and reduced-price ticket programs for the upcoming season. Live video performance streams will be available throughout the summer on BSO NOW. And touchless ticketing starts on May 17th.
Andris Nelsons tells us that,
I join all my colleagues at the Boston Symphony Orchestra in celebrating this moment when we announce our return to live concerts with our dear audiences at Tanglewood this summer.
Prior to the pandemic, none of us could have imagined being without the music of our beloved orchestra at Symphony Hall or Tanglewood. Now, a year later, we are so fortunate to be planning a wonderful reunion with our music community at Tanglewood. When we come together at the Shed for our first concert, I am sure we will all experience music’s incredible power on a whole new level.
My hope is that in this moment, we will discover together an even deeper purpose and meaning for music in our lives—as it is sure to fill our hearts and renew our spirits. This is what I have experienced each time I have been so fortunate to stand before the BSO and other great orchestras this past year.
Many thanks go to my colleagues at the BSO and the experts at 9Foundations for all the incredibly intensive work they have done to tend to the health, safety, and well-being of everyone visiting or working at Tanglewood this summer.
I continue to hold in my thoughts and heart all those who have been directly affected by the pandemic through illness or the loss of a loved one. My hope lies with music’s ability to heal and inspire us, helping to move and sustain us through the challenging times of our lives.
I so look forward to welcoming our dear music community, as well as first-time visitors, to performances with our beloved Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood this summer and experiencing the power of music like never before.
Two thousand words on Covid protocols and facilities improvements from the BSO press release follow.
The BSO is investing more than $1.1 million in COVID-related Tanglewood facilities improvements, expanded crowd management staffing and logistics, and other elements essential to the re-opening plan. This substantial investment in resources reflects the organization’s strong desire to return safely to performances for in-person audiences as soon as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extensive impact on the BSO’s overall finances, and though reopening Tanglewood at a reduced capacity will allow audiences to return, it will also add to the BSO’s financial challenges, given the reduced ticket revenue and increased cost to maintain a safe campus environment. The BSO is grateful to its many donors whose generosity and support have helped make possible the BSO’s transition to creating and sharing online performances over the last year and Tanglewood’s return to performances with audiences this summer.
Returning to Tanglewood in 2021, the BSO affirms its longstanding commitment to its home in the Berkshires, which was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in summer 2020. With the resumption of performance activities in summer 2021, Tanglewood hopes to play its part in revitalizing the local arts community and economy and supporting the BSO’s many cultural partnerships in the region, as well as its programs tailored specifically for local area residents.
The BSO’s current operating budget is $57.7 million, a significant decrease from its pre-COVID operating budget for the 2019-20 season of $103 million. Due to the live performance hiatus necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, the BSO has lost $51.5 million in revenue.
Along with its protocols for keeping audiences safe, the BSO will continue to follow the COVID protocols already in place for orchestra and staff safety during Symphony Hall recording sessions without audiences, including regular health screening and testing when appropriate, universal mask wearing, and physical distancing requirements.
All public performances will take place in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood’s largest outdoor venue, with a minimum distance of 6 feet between musicians on stage and 10 feet between the musicians on stage and the first row of audience seating. Though all BSO staff, volunteers, and musicians will be required to wear masks at all times, in general, brass and woodwind players will be allowed an exception to this protocol while playing their instruments, though they will be required to maintain a greater physical distance from other players.
Rehearsals, recordings, and other activities closed to the public may take place in Ozawa Hall and the Linde Center for Music and Learning. Prior to the start of the summer, these indoor areas will be evaluated and modified to meet air quality standards, as described above. While occupied, these buildings will be continuously monitored to ensure proper air ventilation and filtration.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has invited some members of the 2020 class of the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC)—which adopted an online approach in summer 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—to return to a reduced, in-person operation on the Tanglewood campus, welcoming approximately 60 TMC Fellows, as opposed to the typical class size of 150 Fellows, in order to best ensure physical distancing protocols. Considering the increased risk of virus transmission through singing, there will be no TMC vocal program in 2021.
Comprehensive protocols will be in place to ensure the safety of the TMC Fellows throughout the summer, including regular health screening and testing and an initial quarantine upon arrival to the program.
All Fellows will reside in one location, in single-occupancy rooms with private baths. Fellows, like everyone else on campus, will also be required to wear masks at all times except when eating, drinking, and playing (exceptions made for woodwind and brass players). Precautionary measures include guidelines that require TMC Fellows to refrain from being in close contact with anybody outside the TMC community.
Tanglewood—one of the country’s premier summer music festivals—is located in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, the festival was founded by Serge Koussevitzky, BSO Music Director 1924-1949. In a typical season, in addition to performances by the BSO and the annual Popular Artists series, Tanglewood also presents concerts by the Boston Pops, a chamber music and recital series in Ozawa Hall, and performances by the Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s acclaimed summer music academy, established in 1940 by Koussevitzky. The Tanglewood Learning Institute—introduced in summer 2019 and offering a wide spectrum of performances and multidisciplinary activities designed to engage curious minds seeking to become more involved with music and the arts—is Tanglewood’s first new programmatic offering since the introduction of its Popular Artists series in the 1960s. TLI activities typically take place in the Linde Center for Music and Learning, a four-building complex that opened to critical and popular acclaim in summer 2019.
Tanglewood typically draws an attendance of approximately 340,000 people and brings more than $100 million in economic activity annually to the Berkshires region. Except for several years during World War II, when the performance schedule was curtailed or, in 1943, canceled in its entirety, Tanglewood has been a fixture in the Berkshires and has strengthened its position as this country’s most popular summer music festival. In summer 2020, the unprecedented health crisis resulting from the spread of COVID-19 necessitated the cancellation of live performances with audiences at Tanglewood. In response, the BSO put its creative energy into offering thoughtful and innovative online performance streams, the Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, designed to connect performers—both BSO musicians and guest artists—with audiences. The success of the summer digital festival led to the creation of the BSO NOW digital concert platform that has featured newly-recorded and archival performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops, available at www.bso.org/now. Further information about Tanglewood can be found at www.tanglewood.org; further details about the Tanglewood Learning Institute can be found at www.tli.org.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians, staff, and board join me in expressing how deeply happy we are to be returning to live performances with audiences at Tanglewood this summer, after such a long time away from seeing the faces of our large, devoted music community.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered Tanglewood and Symphony Hall, starting in March 2020, the BSO has committed to the guiding principle that the health and safety of all associated with institution was to be the paramount consideration as we began the process of mapping a path to inviting audiences back into our venues.
One of our first steps taken last fall was bringing our extraordinary BSO musicians back to Symphony Hall for recordings for our video streaming platform, BSO NOW. This venture inspired a new paradigm of music-sharing that reached thousands of fans here at home and around the world. With many more BSO NOW videos planned—including live streams from Tanglewood—we hope music lovers everywhere will continue to enjoy the orchestra’s musical gifts through these online offerings.
Thanks to our ongoing partnership with Joe Allen and 9Foundations—who advised the BSO on a set of standards that has ensured the health and safety of everyone involved in the recording sessions at Symphony Hall—we have developed an even more rigorous plan for Tanglewood that addresses the health and safety of everyone associated with the festival, including concertgoers and visitors to the grounds, as well as our musicians, staff, and volunteers.
We remain absolutely committed to tracking all aspects of the virus over the coming months, monitoring and following the science behind all recommended protocols and restrictions and updating ticket buyers every step of the way.
With the reopening of Tanglewood and welcoming audiences back to concerts for the first time in more than a year, the BSO is taking a step forward in its post-pandemic recovery after the longest period in its history away from its traditional performance schedule at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood. The orchestra relishes this opportunity to reconnect with its loyal audiences and the greater Berkshire community and begin rebuilding and reimagining the concert-going experience, as the orchestra begins to look towards a post-COVID-19 world.
We hope all music enthusiasts near and far will feel safe in considering Tanglewood as they begin returning to the activities that bring them great joy, comfort, and inspiration, as part of a community of like-minded souls yearning for the power of music in their lives again.