Tanglewood attendance sees a decrescendo this year

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LENOX — Plagued by frequent and ill-timed thunderstorms, heavy rainfalls and hot spells, Tanglewood's attendance for the full 11-week season declined 5.5 percent from last summer's total, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Wednesday.

Total attendance fell from 350,014 last summer to 330,599 this year.

Popular artists concerts and celebrity-oriented special events such as the Aug. 25 gala marking the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's birth led the list of Top 13 draws for the season.

The venue has seen a steady increase in rock, pop, folk, jazz, blues and multi-genre bookings, with a record number of 15 this summer, mostly in mid-June through early July, as well as post-BSO season jazz, pop and comedy shows centered around Labor Day weekend.

James Taylor continues to be the biggest draw, by far, attracting just over 18,000 for each of his performances July 3 and 4, followed by 15,013 listeners for the Bernstein Centennial Gala.

Among other prime box office attractions were John Williams' Film Night, the Aug. 19 Tanglewood Music Center concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma conducted by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, and the film-to-music "West Side Story" with Bernstein's famed score performed by the Boston Symphony as the movie was shown on Tanglewood's multiple high-definition Shed and lawn screens.

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The only additional event to top the 10,000 mark was the Labor Day weekend comedy and music show by Steve Martin and Martin Short.

Because of the adverse weather that held down the lawn crowd for some major concerts, the attendance figure for nearly 100 ticketed performances, including passes and "comps" donated to community groups, is below the average of about 342,000 listeners during the past 12 years.

Because the BSO is on tour in Europe through next Monday, orchestra officials were unavailable to comment on the Tanglewood season's box office results. The two-week tour includes 12 concerts at eight major cultural capitals in England, Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The all-time record summers at Tanglewood remain 1998, with 386,870 through the gates, 1997 (376,533) and 2012 (375,776), the 75th anniversary season.

The lowest number of listeners in recent decades was 318,439, in 2013, when Taylor took a prolonged break from touring in order to compose new songs for his most recent studio album, "Before This World."

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @ BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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