Victoria Beaupre tells how her experience with the Fall Festival of Shakespeare changed her personally.
LENOX, Mass. — State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli remembers when Lenox residents couldn't wait for the Tanglewood crowd to finally go home at the end of summer.
That was back when General Electric in Pittsfield employed 12,000 to 13,000 and the cultural attractions were more a matter of pride than the economy.
"Then General Electric and the papers mills started to cut back and go away," he said Thursday morning at Shakespeare & Company's Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre. "We transformed ourselves, we pulled in this creative economy, we recognized it could become an economic engine ...
"It is the No. 1 industry in Berkshire County. We need to continue to feed the beast, we need to continue to grow that industry."
That's what makes the gift Congressman Richard Neal came bearing on Thursday significant, he said: some $348,000 in National Endowment for the Arts funding.
"I've never seen an industry anywhere in Massachusetts in my 16 years that makes a dollar worth $10," Pignatelli said. "Would you make that investment today? ... That's what the cultural economy does."
The celebration of that announcement brought out cultural leaders from venues across the county to hear from the region's U.S. representative and Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker.
Walker thanked the region's federal and state lawmakers for understanding and supporting the arts and the organizations that provide access to the arts locally. The NEA, thought to be facing extinction from a hostile administration, instead got a $3 million bump from Congress; the Massachusetts Cultural Council could be looking at a $2 million hike from an amendment authored by Sen. Adams Hinds of Pittsfield.
This round of NEA funding will go toward the Shakespeare & Company, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, the North Adams Public Schools (with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), the City of Pittsfield, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the New England Foundation for the Arts.
Neal, representing the 1st Massachusetts, touted the region's high-quality artistic works, saying, "you've really established a national and international reputation."
"Because of the extraordinary things you do here, you've really established a national and international reputation," said Neal. "The Massachusetts Cultural Council, your constant advocacy and your constant work, with the almost $2,341,000 for the state Council on the Arts, that's a great testament to the advocacy you do every day."
Shakespeare's Managing Director Adam Davis said tourism in Berkshire County is a $462 million industry.
"We are a huge part of that, we are part of that economic engine," he said. "Four thousand jobs are created just because of what we do."
Shakespeare & Company will receive $20,000 to continue its Fall Festival of Shakespeare, an educational program that brings the Bard's works to the 10 local high schools and culminates in performances at the company's theater on Kemble Street in Lenox.
Veronica Beaupre, now patron services manager for the company, recalled how she had gone through the program in 2011. Shy, unsure, she didn't know how to express herself without a grade to achieve or direction from others.
"I realized I had absolutely no idea who I was a person ... luckily for me the education program handed you to the tools to fix that problem ... the complete works of Shakespeare," she said.
"When you work with Shakespeare's text you don't think of the characters as fictional people, they're complicated, dysfunctional, they've got relationships and ambitions, and perhaps most importantly, they feel everything at 100 percent of the feeling ... you're never just slightly angry, you're ready to murder someone."
Working with Shakespeare's characters allowed her to feel every emotion, and to see how they looked on others. The company's educational programs provide a safe environment for youth to reach a level of emotional intelligence that their elders may not think them capable, she said.
"I felt love and loss and anger and revenge in a way we really don't think high school students are capable of," Beaupre said.
"It taught me to be bold and speak for what I want. .. It made be a better person, a better friend, and a better employee."
Walker also referred to the company's Shakespeare in the Courts, a collaboration with the Berkshire Juvenile Court System, that also provides an outlet for that emotional intelligence learning.
"These are some of things that young people don't know what it feels like ... and when they feel it, their actions lead to consequences they could not have predicted," she said. "But Shakespeare helps those young people predict those consequences and perhaps prevent them in their real life."
Walker also pointed out renowned pianist Emmanual Ax, who works with young musicians through Berkshire Children and Families. These types of programs abound not only in the Berkshires but across the state, she said.
"The Creative Youth Development Program was born and raised in Massachusetts more than 25 years ago," Walker said. "It has literally transformed the lives of thousands of vulnerable teenagers here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ... transformed if not saved the lives of these vulnerable young people."
Neal said he reads many newspapers to get different perspectives and is always heartened to find review and articles about local cultural venues when he turns to the arts sections.
"You quickly come to the conclusion that helps to establish our reputation in a civilized society and I would also use the moment to say it also promotes the civil tone of how we should speak to each other in America," he said. "And use that opportunity to educate ourselves about listening as well as talking."
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Come mid-August, classical aficionados are grateful for the cornucopia of extraordinary musical riches the Boston Symphony bestows to rapt audiences within the incomparably bucolic setting that is Tanglewood.
During this penultimate week of the Tanglewood Festival's classical programming, the spotlight will focus on a range of music in varied genres: from orchestral music by Brahms, Zoltan Kodály, György Ligeti and György Kurtág performed by The Knights chamber orchestra and featuring the superb violinist Gil Shaham, to more Brahms and some rare Schumann performed by the Boston Symphony, to favorite symphonic masterworks by Sibelius, Hindemith and Mahler performed by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the musical putti will be hovering over Tanglewood's arcadian fields.
For extra, out-of-this-world thrills, reserve your seats now in the Shed on Friday, Aug. 16, at 8 p.m. for the cinema spectacular, "Star Wars: A New Hope" – the classic film with live orchestral accompaniment performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Keith Lockhart. Composer/conductor John Williams' exhilarating score will provide an unforgettable sonic experience – one of the highlights of this magical musical summer at Tanglewood.
For a cool, refreshing stylistic change of pace, with a tincture of jazz to buoy the spirits, be sure to check out the final season's program at the storied Sevenars Festival, in South Worthington, Mass.
• Thursday, Aug. 15, 8 p.m. in Ozawa Hall: The innovative New York-based chamber orchestra The Knights performs in Ozawa Hall with a program of music by Hungarian composers, and also two works of Brahms with distinctive Hungarian influences. Violinist Gil Shaham joins the orchestra as soloist in Brahms' Violin Concerto, which was dedicated to his close friend and colleague, the prominent Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, and which includes a rondo-finale inspired by Hungarian gypsy music. The concert begins with the fourth movement of György Ligeti's "Concert Românesc," and the second half of the program interweaves selections from Brahms' immensely popular "Hungarian Dances," György Kurtág's "Signs, Games, and Messages," and Zoltan Kodály's folkloristic "Dances of Galánta."
• Friday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m. in the Shed: Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops present the classic film "Star Wars: A New Hope," with live orchestral accompaniment. Set 30 years after "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," "Star Wars: A New Hope,” the fourth episode of the saga, returns to the desert planet of Tatooine. A young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) begins to discover his destiny when, searching for a lost droid, he is saved by reclusive Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). A civil war rages in the galaxy, and Rebel forces struggle against the evil Galactic Empire, Luke and Obi- Wan enlist the aid of daredevil pilot, Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Joined by the quirky droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO, the unlikely team sets out to rescue Rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and make use of the stolen plans to destroy the Empire's ultimate weapon. In a legendary confrontation, the rogue group mounts an attack against the Death Star for a climactic battle with the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. This live orchestral accompaniment, composed by Tanglewood's own John Williams, will take your experience of this action-packed film to a new, thrilling level. Don't miss it!
• Saturday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m. in the Shed: French conductor François-Xavier Roth, general music director of the city of Cologne, leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a program of music by Brahms and Schumann. To open the concert, soloist Kirill Gerstein joins the orchestra for Johannes Brahms' magisterial Piano Concerto No. 2 – in effect, a symphony with piano solo that epitomizes the composer’s ability to imbue Romantic ardor within traditional, classical structures to create a work of transcendent beauty and power. Maestro Roth then leads the BSO in a performance of Robert Schumann’s inspired Symphony No. 2, with its supremely beautiful and passionate slow movement.
• Sunday, Aug. 18, 2:30 p.m. in the Shed: Maestro François-Xavier Roth returns to conduct the BSO in a program once again of music by Brahms and Schumann. The centerpiece of the performance is Schumann's late-period Cello Concerto, for which the luminary cellist Yo-Yo Ma joins Mr. Roth and the orchestra. The concert also features members of the BSO horn section in the opening work, Schumann's "Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra," a fascinating and spirited work that provides ample opportunity for the hornists to display their instrumental virtuosity. The program concludes with another lesser-known masterpiece, Brahms' Serenade No. 1, an early orchestral work written at the same time as the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15, in D Minor.
• Sunday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m. in Ozawa Hall: Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero, Music Director of the Nashville Symphony, leads the brilliant young Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, and will be sharing the podium with two TMC Conducting Fellows. The program will include Mahler's mellifluous Symphony No. 4. Composed in 1899 and 1900, it is the last of Mahler's works in the genre to incorporate sung text from the folk poetry collection "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" (The Youth's Magic Horn). The "Wunderhorn" poem used in the Fourth is "Das Himmlische Leben," (The Heavenly Life,) which describes a child's vision of heaven.
Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI)
• Monday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m. at The Linde Center, Studio E, "The Black Mozart," concert theater works: Director, composer and writer Bill Barclay returns to Tanglewood for a Concert Theatre Works development project in partnership with TLI. The object of his creative attention for the Full Tilt series of presentations is Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Bologne was a decorated military officer, champion swordsman, acclaimed violinist, composer, and conductor - a true Renaissance man of the classical era and an artist of color in 18th-century France.
Regular-season ticket prices for the 2019 Tanglewood season range from $12-$130, and are available online, through Symphony Charge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office at 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets will also be available for purchase in person at the Tanglewood box office, located at Tanglewood's Main Gate on West Street in Lenox, Mass.
Sevenars Music Festival
Sevenars will present as its season finale one of its traditional favorites, the Bob Sparkman Trio, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18. The duo of clarinetist Bob Sparkman and pianist Jerry Noble is already approaching two decades of magical Sevenars performances; with with the addition of bass guitarist Kara Noble (also Jerry's wife), it has increased its range as a magical trio.
Christian Womble tossed a complete-game with 10 strikeouts and scored the first run, and Anton Lazits had a solo home run to lead Taconic to a 5-1 win over Wahconah in the Western Mass Division 3 championship at UMass on Saturday. click for more
Madison Ross took home a gold medal and two second-place finishes, and her Mount Greylock teammates won the mile relay to close the meet as the Mounties placed second at the Central/Western Massachusetts Division 2 Championships at Westfield State University. click for more