Tanglewood soldiers on without James Taylor
Puzzling over the Boston Symphony’s latest press release, which gives summer attendance totals, I conclude that Tanglewood had fewer concertgoers than last year. Had there been more, the announcement would have said so without convoluted explanations requiring the reader to seek someone with a calculator app. And even then some of the figures don’t add up.
So, casting about for a toehold, I looked at individual concerts, 5 of which drew crowds of over 10,000. Of those 5, only the concert with the number 3 attendance -- the BSO with Yo-Yo Ma performing the beloved Dvorak Cello Concerto -- was a program of purely classical music.
Numbers 2, 4 and 5 were BSO-related concerts, but they were non-classical: Film Night, hosted by John Williams and assisted by David Newman (son of Anthony), featuring Audra McDonald, was a Boston Pops concert of film scores played live along with film clips. (The Pops is essentially the BSO without first chair players.) Tanglewood on Parade, when the BSO is joined by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra for an evening of light classical repertory, begins with afternoon events and ends with cannon and post-concert fireworks. For that event the attendance tally goes on all day. At 5 was the original orchestra score of “West Side Story,” conducted by Newman under a showing of the entire film, in a remastered print.
The season’s largest attendance, 17,316, was for Jackson Browne, July 4th. A holiday and a pop artist who can take people’s memories back to the 1970's.
These figures highlight the management’s repertory dilemma, and help us respect its brave effort to present another 60 or so classical concerts which aren’t going to bring in that kind of money, let alone a crowd of 10,000. Tanglewood is a labor of love, for a minority of listeners who should be grateful. I know I am.
Pictured: Jackson Browne (Associated Press photo)