Your Tanglewood Tales


Your Tanglewood Tales  

During the 75th anniversary season of Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, we've asked for your "Tanglewood Tales." Read stories from Classical New England listeners below.


The saying, “If you don’t like the weather in New England . . . just wait ten minutes” is true for Tanglewood. It isn’t all sunshine, or moonlight and candelabras, near The Shed for concertgoers or performers. The occasional storms add even more memorability to the musical experiences at Tanglewood. It is a magical, sacred place for me, as it is for most people.

As singers in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, we had a birds-eye view of natures wonders mixed with music in the Shed. The al fresco setting, with three open sides where the audience sits, opens up the venue to a whole new audience, many of them winged.

At one of our War Requiem performances in the Shed at Tanglewood (2000, Seiji Ozawa conducting, Benjamin Britten composer) a bird flew over percussionist, Tim Genis, and “whitewashed” one of the timpani right in the middle of his quickest percussion part. Without flinching, he simply grabbed his polishing cloth, swiped away the droppings as clean and quick as he could, and kept on playing without missing a beat.

One week previous during a performance, a black beetle dropped from the rafters on one of the timpani, and Mr. Genis gave the drum an inaudible tap with his mallet, and the bug went gracefully somersaulting high into the air, to the melodious backdrop of the string section.

During one of our rehearsals in the Shed there was a sudden rain storm. The skies were a dark, ominous, greyish-purple and the clouds were roiling with wind and rain. Seiji was leading us ~ the orchestra and chorus ~ up to the fevered fortissimo climax of the “Dies Irae” (Latin for Day of Wrath). Behind him hung the enormous canvas rehearsal curtain, about 50-feet by 70-feet perhaps (to help keep the sound under the roof and around him so he could hear the choir and orchestra better). The enormous, heavy curtain started whipping and flapping in big gusts of wind. The air felt electric and smelled fresh and wild. It was a memorable effect to what we were singing. Day of Wrath, indeed. Lorenzee Cole, one of our choir members went to the parking lot after the wild rehearsal and it was so flooded from the rain storm that the water reached the bottom of her car door.

- Gwendolyn
Bountiful, UT


- Bob
Salem, MA
Several years ago I was hired to play in an orchestra that accompanied an amateur choir on a three-week tour of China. It was an appalling disaster. The tour company was both inept and openly fraudulent, the conductor was a charlatan, the choir was a roiling mass of ruined voices, giant egos and flaring tempers and the concert program - nearly three hours in length - was horrible beyond belief both in programming and execution.

I kept a journal as each incredibly awful event was only followed by something even worse: a twelve-hour bus ride with no food, a urine-soaked hotel room, a concert where the entire audience fled en masse at the intermission - but in that journal there is this line: “As angry as I was last night, playing the Beethoven Choral Fantasy took me straight back to a lovely green and blue and white day on the lawn at Tanglewood. For a few minutes, I could only love the music.”

In the midst of chaos and confusion, I could close my eyes and instantly be lying on the Tanglewood lawn with my family, celebrating the end of a glorious summer. So my favorite Tanglewood moment is a memory that was distilled from twenty years of summers, a memory that saved my sanity on the other side of the world.

- Kathryn
Leominster, MA

  The picture, probably taken in 1946, of the man in a tree is of my father-in-law, Modestino Criscitiello, who as a recently returned veteran of World War II, assumed his favorite seat at Tanglewood, where in earlier years he had been an usher. Dr. Criscitiello was a well-known family physician and surgeon who lived in Pittsfield for more than 50 years.

My husband, Modestino G. Criscitiello, also served as an usher, and it was with the greatest of pleasure that we returned to Tanglewood for the August 10th All-Bach concert, with our four children, spouses and 5 grandchildren. We supped on the lawn, they listened on blankets, and we elders heard the wonderful music from comfortable seats in the shed. What an evening, and the rain held off!

- Nancy
Newton, MA
My first trip to Tanglewood was in 1967. I was in a summer school orchestra, and our high school music teacher organized a trip to Tanglewood each summer. We rode for over two hours from New City, New York in a yellow school bus to spend all day Saturday on the grounds. How we looked forward to that trip every year! The first music I heard there was the Moldau, and I still have the pocket score I bought that day.

Now, I'm a music teacher and I bring my family all the time. We listen to the radio broadcasts each week. We were there in July and we'll be there this Saturday, too.

- Gregory
Wellesley Hills, MA
In the Summer of 1978, my late husband, Dr. Bill, and I were enjoying a picnic on Tanglewood's luscious lawn waiting for the Sunday afternoon concert to begin. Unbeknownst to us, as we raised our wine glasses in a salute to each other and Tanglewood, our picture was being taken. When the following summer's brochure arrived, we were asked by our son-in-law (Walter Eisenberg's son) if we had seen it. When we said yes, he said, look again - and there we were: on the cover of the 1979 Tanglewood brochure! A cherished memory since my husband died in 1991.

- Paula
Brighton, MA
Film Night at Tanglewood with John Williams, 8/27/05

I attended the concert with my husband. This was our first time attending a concert at Tanglewood.

It was certainly a beautiful day to remember! We spent the afternoon at the Norman Rockwell Museum. At night, John Williams was conductor for the BSO at the Koussevitzky Music Shed and Josh Groban was a guest on Film Night.

The Grobanites planned a meet and greet prior to the concert where approximately 400 Josh Groban fans attended to support him. A big white tent was set up on the Tanglewood grounds.

The BSO & John Williams did not disappoint with the wonderful music of film night. Josh Groban performed a few songs, and interacted with the audience with his sense of humor, calling the Tanglewood crowd "Tangleheads"!

After the performance, Josh actually stopped by the Grobanite meet and greet, to thank the fans. It was my first fan meet and greet, so it was a dream come true to see Josh stop by! Since 2005, I have met Josh Groban fans from all across the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and beyond!

- Lily
Somerset, NJ
One hot night we settled into our seats under the shed and waited for the concert to begin. The orchestra was seated, the music started, and a bat came swooping down from the roof and began to buzz the orchestra. Not one musician skipped a beat or even visibly cringed - I was in awe!

- KC
North Andover, MA
In the 1950s, two brothers, who had studied with Marcel Tabuteau at the Curtis Institute, held the principal oboe chair in two of America's greatest orchestras: Harold Gomberg, in the New York Philharmonic, and his younger brother, Ralph, at the BSO. My best friend Ronny Roseman (later of the Bach Aria Group and the NY Woodwind Quintet) studied with Harold in New York during the winter and Ralph during the summer at Tanglewood. I was privileged to attend many a rehearsal and concert in the Berkshires with Ronny.

What impressed me most were the opera workshops conducted by the now legendary [Boris] Goldowsky. Those were the days when the Metropolitan Opera staged the classic repertoire as a showcase for the world's greatest singers. If there was any drama in the opera it was in the orchestral playing, rarely on stage: singers were wooden, moved little, over-acted or acted not at all. But up in Tanglewood, under Goldowsky's direction, what I saw for the first time was truly music drama: the thrilling combination of young people singing beautifully and acting as human beings acted in life, full of passion and emotion.

One night, as Ronny's guest, I went to see Goldowsky's workshop production of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. I will never forget a scene with moving clouds projected on the cyclorama while one of his students, an unknown soprano from Mississippi, sang the title role. It may have been the night air, the scenic wonders, on stage and off, but I turned to my oboist friend and said, "Are you hearing what I am hearing?"

We both agreed: there had never been a more beautiful voice! The student? Leontyne Price.

- Norman
Stockholm, Sweden
It was the summer of 1977. It was the summer of young love!! I was visiting Massschusetts with my boyfriend's family. We had experienced many things: Crane Beach, Freedom Trail, Jimmy's Restaurant, Boston Baked Beans, and a new movie called "Star Wars," with music by conductor/composer John Williams.

But what made a lasting impression on this impressionable 17 year old was a last minute decision, on our way home,to go to a place called "Tanglewood." How could I have imagined the impact this place would have on my future. We sat on the lawn eating subs we had purchased, drinking in the perfect evening; moonlight, stars, the July heat and the most beautiful music wafting across the green, green grass. My boyfriend did not really like classical music. I told him,"You must let your imagination take you somewhere that the music leads you." Soon we were both on adventures sharing the places the music transported us that night. I might add we also stole our fair share of a few kisses.

Fast forward 35 years later. Because of that night I decided that music was my definite choice in life. I attended Eastman School of Music and am a professional Vocalist. As for the boyfriend, well, you know how those summer romances can be, or do you? Four children later and living in Massachusetts I will be travelling back to "Tanglewood" this summer to capture that night so long ago, and yes it will be with the same boy but I like to call him "hubby."

- Deborah
Abington, MA
In the late 1950's, while attending the weekend concerts as a volunteer usher, I heard a Bach suite played in the small concert hall prior to the evening concert in the Shed. Charles Munch, conductor, Ms. Dwyer, flute, featured soloist. At the conclusion of the composition the audience reaction warranted an encore consisting of the last movement of the Bach. Mr. Munch started conducting the group, then stopped and hiked himself up on the lid of the concert grand piano and sat there until the group ended the Bach. At the end, he dropped down to the floor to share in the explosive applause of the audience. Witnessing an encore was a memorable event, but to see the great conductor to stop conducting and sit on the piano was the once in a lifetime experience for me.

- William
Billerica, MA
As a child I often went to Tanglewood with my parents, sitting on the lawn mostly, and a few times in the shed with my father. It became such a special place to me that I decided I would propose to my wife there, except our timing was such that my proposal would be made in the dead of winter. And it was, overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl on a freezing January day in 2007. She said yes, and we have enjoyed our "Tanglewood Weekend" every summer since. We are planning to bring our two-year old to his first concert -- on the back of the lawn of course -- next summer.

- Mathew
New Britain, CT
I'm sure this is a very common story, but it's a great memory for my husband and me. Our first visit to Tanglewood was to celebrate our 25th anniversary in July, 1999. We'd heard about the gourmet picnics, so brought our own, complete with a tablecloth to cover our cooler, crystal goblets for the wine, china, smoked salmon, chilled tomato salad, fresh French bread, and the first fresh peaches of the season. The lawn was deep green, the sky deep blue, the Shed glowing from within as we sat with thousands of other picnickers and thrilled to Wynton Marsalis playing with the BSO. It still gives me chills. In subsequent years we got smart and saved our dessert until after the concert -- and the parking lot had begun to clear. :-)

- Ellen
Lexington, MA
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