A hopeful pandemic note: Tanglewood music festival to resume

WILLIAM J. KOLE
·2-min read

If you're a fan of classical music, this is music to your ears: One of the nation's premier summer festivals is coming back after the coronavirus pandemic silenced it for the first time since World War II.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Friday that its 2021 outdoor season at Tanglewood, the acclaimed symphony’s summer home in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, will feature a return to live, in-person concerts from July 9 to Aug. 16.

Concerts at Tanglewood, where fans spread blankets on the manicured lawns, sip wine and picnic beneath the stars, have been a rite of summer in New England since 1937.

But the pandemic forced organizers to scrap the 2020 festival, switching to online performances and muting a tradition that annually draws nearly 350,000 visitors from around the world and funnels $100 million into the region's economy. Until last year, the live music had flowed virtually uninterrupted, canceled outright only in 1943 at the height of WWII.

“I am sure we will all experience music’s incredible power on a whole new level,” Andris Nelsons, the BSO's music director, said in a statement.

“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,” he said.

The orchestra said contactless ticketing, stringent cleaning protocols, mask-wearing and social distancing will be in place for the festival, which is being shortened from its usual 12-week run to about half that. All performances will be shortened to 80 minutes or less with no intermissions, it said, adding that concert details would be announced next month.

This summer's festival will mark the orchestra's return to live performances for the first time since the pandemic forced what will be a 16-month hiatus.

BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe acknowledged it's taken a toll on musicians and fans alike, describing them as “a community of like-minded souls yearning for the power of music in their lives again.”

Over the decades, Tanglewood has produced memorable performances by classical music giants including the late Leonard Bernstein, so it's a fitting backdrop for a comeback from COVID-19, Nelsons said.

“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,” he said.