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A musical journey to Tanglewood

August 9, 2013

(Photo Courtesy Steve Rosenthal) Tanglewood at dusk.

South County is a beautiful, amazing place to be during the summer months. Having said that, there are the tourists and traffic jams to contend with in August. Ready for a break from it all? A road trip might be a perfect way to escape the madness that ensues during these next few weeks.

One option is to hop on the Massachusetts Turnpike and head west for a music and arts-filled getaway to the Berkshires just three hours away in Lenox, Mass. That’s the home of Tanglewood, a beautiful, sprawling estate that is home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), offering music lovers a spectacular variety of musical guests and programs. Tanglewood’s summertime tradition dates back to the 1930s when a group of Berkshire summer residents arranged for members of the New York Philharmonic to perform outdoor concerts. Last year, the venue celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first concerts given by the BSO on the gardened estate and manor house which was given by the Tappan family to the BSO in 1937.
Tanglewood annually draws more than 350,000 visitors, many of whom take the outdoor music experience to a higher level by bringing an array of flowers, candles, fine wine, cheeses, fruits, chairs and blankets with them to the lawn.
While the venue is known mainly for classical music, last week Tanglewood was electrified and arguably as loud as it gets there with The Steve Miller Band. Miller, a 69-year-old Californian rock guitarist and singer brought an array of classic rock hits with him to the Berkshires.
With a plaintive yet charming singing style and a full arsenal of guitar licks coaxed out of his Fender Stratocaster, Miller kept the multigenerational crowd engaged for over two hours.
Opening with two of his most popular songs, “Jungle Love,” and “Take the Money and Run,” Miller and his band stayed eerily close to the versions that are a staple of classic rock radio. After a perfunctory performance of the 1982 number one hit “Abracadabra,” those in attendance looking for something off the beaten path were treated to three blues numbers–Bobby Blue Bland’s “Further on Up the Road,” Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo,” and the Otis Rush gem “All Your Love (I Miss Loving).” All three were sung by backing vocalist Sonny Charles, which gave Miller a chance to focus just on his guitar. The man has elegant chops. More hits followed with “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “Jet Airliner,” “Swingtown,” and an encore version of “The Joker.” During the latter song, concert goers sang along in full voice while an unmistakable scent of marijuana came wafting over from a tie-dyed group of 20-somethings standing to the left of this scribe.
Upcoming classical music programs at Tanglewood include Sibelius and Brahms on Friday, Aug. 9; Beethoven, Carter and Brahms on Saturday, Aug. 10 and an All Beethoven Program on Sunday, Aug. 11. Upcoming popular concerts include Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with special guest Josh Ritter on Monday, Aug. 19 and Harry Connick, Jr. on Saturday, Aug. 31.
For a complete list of performers, programs and special events at Tanglewood visit www.bso.org/tanglewood.

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