A True Life Experience at Tanglewoods

It was a busy week for the Pop Culture Gangster last week – not only did I go to Waterfires, and the 4th of July Celebration in Boston, but I also went to Tanglewoods for the first time ever, and accomplished a life goal of seeing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed live.

Unlike other concert going experiences, this was very laid back and had a plebeian sophistication to it.  It wasn’t filled with stuck up fans like the Andrea Boccelli concert, but it also was far from rowdy.  It truly felt like a group of true music fans there to hear great music – perhaps the greatest music ever composed – in a unique, historical setting.

The first thing that is unique about Tanglewoods is that picnicking is encouraged – you’re not forced to buy overpriced and poorly cooked hamburgers and hot dogs or stale popcorn at outrageous prices.  Like others, we showed up with two bottles of wine, cheese, crackers, sausage, salami and fruit for a light dinner.  Others showed up with full meals and ate on picnic blankets by candlelight.  Its tough to find a bad spot to sit on the lawn, but some opted for a better view of the dramatic valley landscape than a view of the stage.  Others got close to the musical action, which is never far away thanks to large projection screens.

The sound quality lived up to its legendary status, though next time I would love to hear the show under the shed instead of out on the lawn, as I think it would be more emphatic.  It is a high class but not snobbish event that anyone within a few hour’s drive should experience once in their life – even if you don’t like classical music, there’s sure to be something to entertain you and lawn tickets can run as low as $8.50!  The worst thing that can happen is that you spend a few relaxing hours with friends and loved ones listening to great music and picnicking. 

The drive out is a bit of a bear, but not any worse than other concerts – a long narrow road is shut down to allow two lanes of traffic to get out and only one pompous twit cut me off, unlike the aforementioned Boccelli twit-fest.

Classical music is one of those things that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but there’s probably a piece that will appeal to anyone willing to try it.  It isn’t all quiet chamber music – Beethoven’s 9th is an amazing piece filled with a chorus with a dramatic ending to end all dramatic endings.  The 1812 Overture is famous for its explosive finale.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pachabel’s Canon has become a well-loved piece of relaxing music.

Being a fan of classical music doesn’t make you a better person, nor does listening to it, but there’s also nothing wrong with it and can only help to broaden your experiences.  When put in a setting as gorgeous and serene as Tanglewoods however, it becomes a nearly religious experience and truly a life experience that everyone should be fortunate enough to have.