Every summer, from the end of June through to Labor Day weekend, the Tanglewood Music Festival transforms the Berkshires of western Massachusetts into a music mecca, drawing over 300 000 people each year. Located between the towns of Lennox and Stockbridge, Tanglewood hosts countless music events covering a range as vast as Jazz, Chamber music, operas and more.

A Season of Music

Like going off to summer camp, the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends every summer at Tanglewood. This year their Tanglewood season begins on July 5th with an all Tchaikovsky program featuring violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. However, if Tchaikovsky isn’t your cup of tea (or shot glass of vodka) don’t worry, this summer you can enjoy the music of Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Verdi, Vivaldi, Wagner and the “Liszt” goes on. Continuing a Tanglewood tradition, works from all of the great composers will resonate across the verdant landscape this season. On July 13th the Boston Symphony Orchestra is planning a special performance of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. This famous score will be accompanied by the film’s original vocals and dialogue, while the re-mastered film is shown on large high definition screens.

The Boston Pops will be bringing their effervescent and enchanting presence to five Tanglewood performances, beginning on July 7th with a matinee concert featuring country artist Vince Gill. On August 6th, Tanglewood on Parade spotlights the Boston Pops, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with conducting honors shared by four renowned conductors: Stéphane Denève, Charles Dutoit (former artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra), Keith Lockhart and John Williams. The evening will end with a fireworks display and Tchaikovsky’s ultra recognizable 1812 Overture.

Pianist and crooner Michael Feinstein joins the Pops for an evening of beloved American songbook standards on August 16th. The perennial favorite, John Williams’ Film Night will be held on August 24th. Sharing conducting duties with Boston Pops laureate conductor John Williams will be fellow Hollywood composer David Newman. Adding to the night’s exciting line-up is renowned singer Audra McDonald (those unfamiliar with her considerable vocal talents may recognize her from her years on TV’s Private Practice).

In keeping with the summer atmosphere, you can opt for seats inside the “Shed” (an open-air, roofed section adjacent the stage) or grab a spot on the lawn and lay out a picnic blanket or lawn chair (available for rent). You can pre-order a meal or simply bring your own and bask in the afternoon sun or raise a glass to the melodious masters as you gaze upon a starlit sky.

Sights of the Season

While it is true that each season brings its own delights to the Berkshires, the summer includes added bonuses like longer museum hours and beautiful blooming gardens. One such garden, located only minutes away from Tangelwood, is on the former estate of author Edith Warton. The first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Edith Warton’s portfolio of over forty books includes The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth and works on architecture and gardens. Drawing on this knowledge, she designed the house and garden known as The Mount (both open to the public). The hillside house overlooking a lake, complete with formal library and drawing room, was inspired by a 17th century English country house. Grander still is the three acres of formal gardens. An Italian style walled garden, grass terraces, rock garden and more, all arranged as a series of outdoor rooms.

The Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield offers a look at what was an authentic Shaker community. The living museum once referred to as “The City of Peace,” features twenty historic buildings. Through tours, exhibitions and costumed staff you can learn about Shaker beliefs, furniture, crafts, agriculture and communal society.

The Norman Rockwell Museum, in Stockbridge, houses the world’s largest collection of Rockwell’s work. Along with more than 570 paintings and drawings, and an archive of photos, letters and materials numbering over 100 000 items, the museum includes Rockwell’s own easel, brushes, books and furnishings from his Stockbridge studio. Spanning more than six decades, Rockwell’s prolific career included paintings for Life, Literary Digest and American Weekly magazines, along with ads and posters for the likes of Budweiser, Crest, the Boy Scouts, Jell-O, 20th Century Fox and RKO.

Though he is best known for his 321 Saturday Evening Post covers. Many of which chronicled an innocent and ideal version of American life: a boy doing a cartwheel in Summer Vacation, three young children intently playing in Marbles Champion, and a man carrying golf clubs as he leaves work in Important Business. However, Rockwell embraced serious subjects with the same nod to detail and viewer engaging style. His work for Look magazine produced gripping paintings like The Problem We All Live With. Tackling racial integration in southern schools, the painting shows a young African American girl passing a racist graffiti defaced wall as she walks to school with four federal agents. A visit to the museum will leave you with a whole new respect for this talented artist. Captivating, amusing, light-hearted and deeply poignant, Rockwell’s work is worth discovering.

Travel Planner

It takes approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes to drive the 430km (about 270 miles) from Montreal to Tanglewood.
For more information on all Tanglewood performances, including ticket prices, directions and dining, please visit www.bso.org
For information on all other sites (including opening hours, ticket prices, directions, etc…) please visit:
The Mount www.edithwharton.org
The Norman Rockwell Museum (open May – November 11th) www.nrm.org
Hancock Shaker Village www.hancockshakervillage.org