Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA) – July 13, 2013

Garcia, Pops combine on a great evening


I hopped on my ten-speed that I bought from Mike’s Bike Shop in Pittsfield for $ 80 and headed down to Tanglewood to get my hands on one of those $75 season ticket lawn passes for Berkshire residents. It’s a cheapskate’s delight. You just show up with proof of your Berkshire residence, such as a driver’s license, and you’re in for the whole season.

Given that lawn tickets are usually $19, it’s quite the deal. There are still plenty of concerts left to make the investment worth it. So you don’t have to be rich New Yorker to be a Tanglewood lawn bum like me.

I recently caught the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra at Ozawa Hall. The TMC orchestra is comprised of almost exclusively college- age, young adults who are students at Tanglewood for the summer. (There was one courageous older person.) This isn’t a local middle school band. These are highly talented young adults blossoming with passion. The brochure rightly describes them as “young professionals pursuing advance musical study.” They were magnificent.

The Ozawa Hall experience from the lawn is unforgettable. One is right on the action much more so than the shed lawn. I felt something like an Aladdin before an enchanted cave exploding in light where there once was an extended folding- door, with an illuminated acoustic paradise open before me like a gigantic doll house. As I sat under the stars, an architectural dream of light-stained wooden cathedral magnificence before me, the interior light exploded into the inky darkness and the haunting joy of Beethoven’s Fifth spilled off the hands of youth into the sultry Berkshire night, falling down the hillside down toward Stockbridge Bowl. Onlookers from the lawn sipped their wine, mistaking it for ambrosia of the Gods and their lawn chairs for thrones, for they were in the heavens. I look as much forward to the TMC Orchestra’s future performances as the Boston Symphony itself. ( July 15, July 22, August 18).

Make no mistake about it; I bought the season ticket for the classical music. So when I bombed down that hill in Lenox on Route 183 toward the gates of Tanglewood, I was cringing at the idea of a “Jerry Garcia” night with the Boston Pops. I was having a nightmare of being trapped in an elevator with easy listening versions of Grateful Dead tunes assaulting me the way chintzy Christmas music tortures a sales clerk at a retail store during the holidays.

Perhaps low expectations can lead to sublime experiences, but after the concert I hooked up with some 20- something youth at the Heritage tavern in the center of Lenox, and we decided that Saturday, June 22, 2013 was a historic evening in music. We decided so not so much on quality of the performance, even though it was transcendent, but because young people in their early 20s were dancing with older people in the late 30s, and early 40s with young children, accompanied by the usual older Tanglewood crowd. The young at a classical music venue are far from a given – this past Sunday, Vince Gill of Pure Prairie League fame (if you are old enough you might remember the hit “Let Me Love You Tonight”) played with the Boston Pops to an almost completely septuagenarian and octogenarian crowd.

Be it a member of Pink Floyd, or Joni Mitchell, or Counting Crows, some currently trendy jam-band, or something even more contemporary, at least twice a summer, if not more, Tanglewood should reach out to young audiences with a similar Boston Pops performance. Pops conductor Keith Lockhart has promoted an EdgeFest Series, featuring indie artists, and more of it at Tanglewood would be welcome.

That Saturday, June 22, 2013, Warrens Hayes, a musician with the Allman Brothers, the Dead (predecessor of the Grateful Dead) and one my favorite jam bands, Gov’t Mule, was accompanied seamlessly by the Boston Pops, transporting Jerry Garcia tunes out onto the hula- hooping Tanglewood lawn, on a perfect fire- flied summer evening. The flight of Frisbees mixed with the popping of champagne, and wafts of marijuana mingled with candelabras, as the motley audience became one, the energies of spanning generations, in peace and unity. The rifts of the guitar, the soulful female vocal accompaniment, soared with the symphony, adding a dimension to the music that it had not known before.

Jerry looked down as a star in the firmament, caressing the crowd, and smiled. And the Muses spoke and said it needs to happen again.

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