Grounds for hope: Tanglewood property preps opening to bring some normalcy to strange summer

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LENOX — Tanglewood is opening its 2020 season to a shifted landscape.

While the Koussevitzky Music Shed remains boarded up, the grounds are still being meticulously maintained. On Wednesday morning, Bruce Peeples, the grounds supervisor himself, was the lone man on tractor duty, trimming the verdant, thoroughly drenched great lawn.

The only other workers in sight were a pair from Consigli Construction Co. — the same contractor for Tanglewood's Linde Center for Music and Learning — atop an electric lift by the Shed walls. They were installing a series of 13-by-21-foot, custom-printed scrims that will greet visitors when the grounds officially open, with limited access, on Sunday.

"Though we can't offer live performances this summer, we wanted to open the grounds so the public could still visit and stroll the property and take in the iconic vistas so closely associated with the Tanglewood experience," Boston Symphony Orchestra spokeswoman Bernadette Horgan said.

Tanglewood Business Partners Director Laurence Oberwager said the panel project came together quickly as a way to spruce up the campus. He also pitched the idea of dedicating one of the panels to Berkshire County public high school graduates of the Class of 2020, many of whom would have celebrated their commencement on the grounds, had it not been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Pittsfield-based Mill Town Capital immediately signed on as the lead underwriter for this project with additional support from Berkshire United Way, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lee Bank, The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank and Price Chopper. The BSO raised more than $15,000 from sponsors to support this project.

The graduates panel includes the names of 1,072 students listed by 12 public high schools throughout the region. The other panels include: a photo illustration of a person seated on the lawn, looking over the grounds; a "selfie spot," which features a shot of the BSO and the words, "Greetings from Tanglewood" printed across the panel; a sponsors panel; and a panel with a rainbow-hued design that reads, "You Are The Way," created through a partnership between Tanglewood Learning Institute and IS183 Art School of the Berkshires.

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The installation occurred on the first day of Tanglewood's online festival, which featured a 1 p.m. TLI conducting class recorded last year by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons.

Tanglewood grounds will be open to the public three days a week, by reservation only, from Sunday through Aug. 23. Registration is free and can be done online via the "Tanglewood Grounds Visit" link at tanglewood.org. In addition to signing up for a time, guests must fill out a liability waiver and indicate that they are in compliance with Massachusetts' new travel guidelines issued on Tuesday. Grounds hours are 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Social distancing, mask-wearing and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health and safety protocols will be in effect. Blankets and chairs are welcome, coolers and picnics are not, and only clear containers of water will be permitted on the grounds. Food service, water fountains and restroom facilities will remain closed.

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Some people expressed their frustration with these restrictions in social media posts and a recent letter to the editor.

"While perceived by many as a public park, Tanglewood is privately owned and maintained at significant annual cost to the Boston Symphony Orchestra," Horgan said. "Allowing food, beverages, and picnics on campus would necessitate restroom accommodations for our visitors, which we could not provide under current conditions. Additional grounds staffing and maintenance expenses to collect and dispose of trash would have increased the financial obligation of opening the grounds at a time when cost-saving measures, along with everyone's health and safety, are among the highest priorities."

Some public safety officers and first responders will be on-site during public hours for emergency situations.

Jenn Smith can be reached at jsmith@berkshireeagle.com, at @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter and 413-496-6239.


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