In Huge Blow to Berkshires, Tanglewood 2020 Season Canceled

James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma (photo Hilary Scott)

by Seth Rogovoy


(LENOX, Mass., May 15, 2020) – There will be no unofficial kickoff to the Berkshire summer cultural season by Sweet Baby James.

Tanglewood’s summer 2020 season has been cancelled, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a huge blow to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and to the Berkshire economy, heavily reliant as it is on cultural-based tourism, there will be no live performances open to the public at Tanglewood this summer.

James Taylor’s annual Fourth of July concert at Tanglewood is a casualty of the summer cancellation, but Taylor has already announced he will return to the Shed on July 4, 2021.

Joshua Bell (photo Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Other popular artists who had concerts cancelled but who are scheduled to return next summer include Ringo Starr (June 19, 2021), Trey Anastasio (June 18), Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie (June 20), and John Legend, on a date to be announced.

All concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, visiting orchestras and chamber groups, and popular artist performances have been cancelled or postponed until summer 2021. Nor will there be any live events held at the new Tanglewood Learning Institute.

Instead, the BSO will offer a “Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival,” featuring artists and programs that were originally scheduled to take place this summer, as free and paid livestreams through the Tanglewood website. The online festival will include both new and archival programs, including Saturday evening Great Performers in Recital video streams and Wednesday evening Recitals from the World Stage, featuring artists who were slated to play Ozawa Hall this summer.

James Taylor will also take part in some of the online festivities this summer; he will host and perform in Best of Tanglewood on Parade.

The New York Times is calling the cancellation “the end of live performance in America this summer,” following as it does in the wake of the cancellation of the Los Angeles Philharmonic summer season at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this week.

The Boston Globe paints a dismal economic forecast for the region as a result of the cancellation. “Because Tanglewood is also an outsize tourist draw for the entire Berkshires region, its cancellation will have ripple effects on the local economy,” writes the Globe. “According to the BSO’s own economic impact study, Tanglewood performances and operations generate $103 million for the region every summer and between 930 and 1,100 jobs. Of the festival’s estimated 340,000 yearly visitors, 84 percent come from outside of Berkshire County, and 49 percent from outside the state.”

Amanda Forsyth (photo Mazak)

Mark Volpe, the Boston Symphony’s president and chief executive, echoed that analysis, telling the New York Times, “You take Tanglewood out of the Berkshires in the summer, and that basically drives the hospitality industry, which is a big part of their economy,” Volpe said. “So this has the potential to be devastating to our many partners in the business community in the Berkshires.”

As the Globe reports, “The online festival set to replace this year’s live offerings will include recitals by previously scheduled soloists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianists Emanuel Ax, Daniil Trifonov, and Conrad Tao, and violinists Joshua Bell and Gil Shaham, and a Friday-evening series devoted to recital performances by BSO musicians. The orchestra will also be tapping its archives to present previously recorded programming from the BSO, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Tanglewood Learning Institute. The festival’s bucolic grounds will remain open to the public this summer, with a restricted number of visitors permitted on weekends and Wednesday mornings.”





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