Our Opinion: A quiet summer at Tanglewood

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It didn't come as a surprise but Tanglewood's announcement Friday that it will cancel its summer season because of the COVID-19 pandemic was nonetheless a blow to the Berkshires, economically and psychologically.

Tanglewood is the anchor cultural venue among many that to a large degree define the Berkshires. Its absence this summer will have a huge adverse impact upon the hotels, motels, B&B's, restaurants and taverns already reeling from the cancellation of the summer season by Jacob's Pillow and a number of theater companies.

The administration of the Boston Symphony Orchestra had held out hope that the summer home of the BSO could have some kind of a season. But the BSO in its announcement said it had concluded that it could not find a way to guarantee the safety of patrons by meeting state and federal guidelines on social distancing. "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," said BSO president and CEO Mark Volpe in a statement.

In cancelling the June 19-August 27 schedule, a variety of concerts by popular artists, including the annual July 4 concert by Berkshire resident James Taylor, have also been cancelled. The cancellation is an economic blow to the BSO, which had counted on about $12 million in ticket revenue this summer. This will be the first time since the war year of 1945 that music will not be heard on the iconic Tanglewood grounds.

Another blow came Friday with the announcement that the Berkshire International Film Festival is cancelling its 15th annual event. The long list of cancellations now extends beyond summer as BIFF organizers had first rescheduled their annual May event in September.

In a press release, BIFF founder and artistic director Kelley Vickery said the Board of Directors had determined, with a heavy heart that, like Tanglewood and other Berkshire cultural venues, regulations against large crowds made it impossible to provide the social distancing needed to protect patrons. The BIFF is a Great Barrington institution that in recent years had expanded to Pittsfield, and its loss this year will be felt.

Both Tanglewood and BIFF will have a digital presence to maintain links with their audience. The BSO is creating the Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, a digital series of audio and video streams featuring artists and performers who had been scheduled to appear this summer. Archival BSO performances not previously available on line will be offered and Mr. Taylor will host a "Best of Tanglewood on Parade." Some of the streams will be free, others will include a fee. They will be available on www.tanglewood.org

BIFF will continue its collaboration with the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington in presenting new independent film releases on line. Festival organizers plan to present "Pop-Up Drive-In" movie screenings in the county later this summer. Details will be found on www.biffma.org

Patrons of both organizations, as well as other cultural groups in Berkshire County with an on-line presence, will undoubtedly welcome these digital offerings as they await with hope, along with everyone in the county, state and nation, for a return to normalcy in 2021.

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