LENOX — All live music will be silenced at Tanglewood this summer, based on state and federal guidance against large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time since 1945, the final year of World War II, the entire summer festival and its Tanglewood Music Center institute for advanced study have been canceled, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced on Friday. The Tanglewood Learning Institute, which debuted at the new, four-season Linde Center in June 2019, is also shuttered.
The entire June 19-Aug. 27 schedule — concerts by the Boston Symphony in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, TMC concerts as well as guest ensembles and soloists at Ozawa Hall, and the Popular Artists series including James Taylor on July 4 — is affected by the live performance wipeout.
“All of us at the Boston Symphony Orchestra deeply wish we could have found a way to present performances at Tanglewood this summer,” said BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe in a statement. “We explored every possible scenario to try to save all or part of our concert schedule, but with the health of the greater Tanglewood community as our highest priority, performances with audiences are not possible. Since the only time the festival was canceled outright was in 1945 due to World War II, you can only imagine what a difficult decision it was.”
Though not unexpected, the shutdown of live performances at Tanglewood is a devastating blow to the hospitality economy of the Berkshires, already affected by cancellations of all summer programming at Shakespeare & Company, Jacob’s Pillow and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and shortened August seasons at Barrington Stage and the Berkshire Theatre Group.
Studies by Stephen Sheppard, an economics professor at Williams College, show that the BSO’s summer home accounts for more than $100 million of impact on the tourism and cultural sectors. Employment at Tanglewood totals about 1,000 full- and part-time, a payroll of $35 million. Typical summer season attendance averages about 350,000.
The shutdown is also a harsh blow to the BSO’s bottom line, with an expected loss of $12.4 million in expected ticket revenue for Tanglewood, including the Popular Artists series. Adding lost ticket sales from canceled performances from the BSO’s winter season, the Boston Pops spring series, tours and other sources of earned income, as well as an expected drop in contributions, the total decline comes to $29.2 million.
Cancellations of popular artists include James Taylor’s July 4 show — postponed until July 4, 2021 — and Ringo Starr (rescheduled for June 19, 2021), Trey Anastasio (rebooked for June 18, 2021); Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie (now slated for June 20, 2021); Brandi Carlile and Mavis Staples; Patti LaBelle and Darlene Love; The Mavericks with Los Lobos, and John Legend (rescheduled for sometime next summer), as well as NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” quiz show (on deck for Aug. 26, 2021).
To maintain close connections with its audience, the BSO is creating an ambitious, elaborate Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, a digital series of audio and video streams featuring many of the artists and performers who had been scheduled to appear this summer, including Taylor. Some of the content will be recorded at Tanglewood’s Linde Center in June and July.
“There is no doubt that we are all disheartened over the loss of being together for live music performances this summer, as well as the loss of so many other cultural offerings throughout the Berkshire region,” BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons commented in a prepared statement. “My colleagues at the Boston Symphony Orchestra have dedicated all their focus and energies to creating an innovative online offering for the thousands of music lovers who support Tanglewood.”
Nelsons acknowledged that while “nothing can substitute for the community around the live concert experience, these online offerings will be a beautiful bridge of inspiration that will help get us through this difficult period and back to live performances at Tanglewood in 2021.”
Highlights of the digital festival include:
• Video streams of performances by artists who had been scheduled to appear at Tanglewood this summer, including superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma; pianists Emanuel Ax, Danil Trifonov and Jeremy Denk; and violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham and Pinchas Zuckerman, among others. (8 p.m., Friday, July 3, and Saturdays, July 11-Aug. 21).
• A video series presenting BSO musicians in recitals from Tanglewood. (8 p.m. Fridays, July 3-Aug. 21).
• Digital video recitals by performers slated at Ozawa Hall this summer, including the Silkroad Ensemble, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, pianists Paul Lewis and Garrick Ohlsson, and others. (8 p.m. Wednesdays, July 8-Aug. 19).
• Archival BSO video performances from Tanglewood, not previously available online, many conducted by Nelsons. (2:30 p.m. Sundays, July 5-Aug. 23).
• A series of archived performances by the young musicians of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. (8 p.m. Mondays, July 6-Aug. 17).
• A “Best of Tanglewood on Parade” video stream hosted by James Taylor, with encore performances by the BSO, Boston Pops and TMC Orchestra with conductors Andris Nelsons, Keith Lockhart, John Williams and James Burton. (in August, date/time TBA).
The streams, some free and some paid, will be available at www.tanglewood.org. Advance sale of paid offerings will begin June 15 through the website. Prices will range from $5 to $12 for a single streamed performance, and from $8 to $80 for multiple stream packages. Streams will be available online for one week after their initial presentations.
Additional online presentations will include new and retrospective Tanglewood Learning Institute master classes, discussions and programs featuring leading artists with close ties to the summer festival.
Students admitted to the Tanglewood Music Center summer institute, who will be invited to take part in the 2021 summer season, will be able to access online content this summer, including classes with BSO members and TMC faculty.
No information was available Friday on whether Tanglewood will be available for the usual array of mid- to late-June high school and college graduation ceremonies.
But, with social distancing, safety and health guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in effect, the Tanglewood grounds will be open July 5 through Aug 23 on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 to 4 and on Wednesdays from 9 to noon. But advance registration for visits will be required at www.tanglewood.org, starting June 15 since only a limited number of visitors will be permitted at any specific time.
Volpe, the BSO president and CEO who announced his retirement from the BSO last January to take effect next Feb. 28, recently described the organization as “morphing” into a media company.
“I hope everyone who loves Tanglewood will take advantage of the diverse offerings of Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, as every effort has been made to bring the spirit of Tanglewood into the numerous video and audio streams featured throughout the summer,” he stated. “With multi-layered content that also focuses on the Tanglewood Music Center and the Tanglewood Learning Institute, we believe these online programs have the potential to break new ground. Most importantly, we hope they will maintain connections with our Tanglewood community and provide the inspiration needed during this challenging period.”
Volpe, whose 23-year tenure has been marked by deep commitment to Tanglewood and ambitious expansions of facilities and programming, said that “our thoughts are with everyone during this difficult health crisis, but especially today, all our friends, neighbors, and supporters in the Berkshires. We are determined to come back stronger and more vibrant in 2021, with a resolve to do our part to rebuild the extraordinary summertime cultural community that is absolutely unique to the Berkshire region.”
During the war years of 1942-44, there were only limited activities at Tanglewood involving smaller BSO ensembles as well as the summer institute for advanced young musicians, then known as the Berkshire Music Center. The 1945 season was canceled entirely. Those were the only years Tanglewood, founded in 1937, had been so seriously affected by a major worldwide crisis.
To help reduce the severe hit to the organization’s bottom line, contributions of all sizes will be matched by BSO board members and Friends during a campaign starting immediately through Aug. 31. Information: www.tanglewood.org/GiveToday.
Clarence Fanto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.