Tanglewood dangles on a decision

From Mark Volpe, president of the Boston Symphony Orchestra:

I remain hopeful that we can have concerts at Tanglewood this summer. Naturally, the pandemic we are currently experiencing is unprecedented and unpredictable, and we will certainly follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and our government leaders. The health, safety, and wellbeing of our audiences, neighbors, players, and staff is our foremost concern. Yet, we will try the best we can to be a presence in the Berkshires in every way possible this summer.

We have heard from a considerable number of our friends in the Berkshires, including the many businesses in the area that rely on summer tourism, asking when we will make our ultimate determination on what this summer will bring. The honest answer is that we have not set a definitive timetable for this. Because of the uncertain nature of the epidemic, we are considering many options for the Tanglewood season on a near-daily basis. We recognize the importance of Tanglewood and other cultural organizations to the Berkshire community, and we intend to remain in close contact with our partner organizations and businesses in the region to assess the situation and announce any news we may have.

Tanglewood is a complex operation with many distinct components, from the festival and popular artists to the Tanglewood Music Center, Tanglewood Learning Institute, and more. Though each is certainly connected, they are also in many ways independent, necessitating a multi-faceted approach to our decision-making. The financial implications of any decisions or changes are significant to the BSO and the Berkshires, so we are taking a careful and measured approach in our reasoning, while recognizing that we cannot predict the future of our world in the coming months….

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  • These summer festivals are not going to happen.

    Even if shelter in place orders are lifted in June, until there is a vaccine, gatherings of more than a dozen people are still going to be prohibited. Just imagine the damage several infected people could do in a concert hall that seats 5,100+ people.

    And even if you removed seats in the house so there is a buffer around audience members, that’s not going to work for members of the orchestra. I guess you could do solo performances.

    • I am surprised that Mr. Volpe doesn’t have the courage or the scientific advise and knowledge to understand that it will not be possible to have a festival like Tanglewood this summer. There are two very obvious reasons, one scientific and one psychological.
      As long as there is no vaccine for COVID-19, and there won’t be one ready by this summer, the virus will still be “active and circulating”. It most probably will not be circulating at current levels, but it will be out there and social distancing will be an essential way of avoiding any further major outbreak. Having members of the BSO sitting on a stage, literally inches from one another is not social distancing and risks their health and that of their families and friends. The same goes for the audience. Then there is the psychological side. How can any manager of an arts event imagine that literally a few weeks after living through this traumatic situation and of maintaining social distancing, that the public will suddenly feel that it’s now perfectly alright to attend a concert and sit and interact with hundreds of other people?! It is not serious and it always surprises me how U.S. based and educated managers just wait for orders and do as they are instructed by their more often than not incompetent officials. A top-end manager needs to use their own head, ask their own advice and simply see what is obvious. Things will not be back to normal befor e there is a vaccine that has been proven to be effective and the majority of the population have been vaccinated and reassured. That won’t be before late 2021 or probably early 2022. Mr. Volpe should consult with the brilliant minds at an institution right in his own town, MIT. They published a report saying exactly the same thing.
      https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615370/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing-18-months/

  • Translation: It’s not happening.

    Can you imagine the consequences if a second wave broke out from one of these audience events?

    Or will you have everyone wearing masks and sitting six feet apart?

    And what of the performers?

    No, it’s not happening.

    In fact, I’ll go a step further. Next season will be cancelled as well. All such venues will be closed until we get a vaccine. We’ll be looking at mass furloughs at operations like the Boston Symphony. Those organizations with less robust finances will simply cease to exist.

    Covid-19 is a neutron bomb to the performing arts.

  • It seems like eventually the least painful thing will be for countries to order everyone over age 50, or with pre-existing conditons, to stay home for several months while everyone else goes out, gets infected and gets herd immunity.

    Shutting down the world economy might in the long run start to result in more human suffering that Covid; i.e. people starting to starve due to a great depression level economy. How will gig workers, like most musicians, survive this for longer than a few more months?

  • 2020 will go down in history as the year when summer was cancelled. Given that Covid 19 is potentially more lethal than flu, I’m not sure I would want to join a gathering not knowing whether I was a transmitter or my fellow audience were transmitters.

    • “Covid-19 more lethal than flu”

      Er…only a bit more lethal than flu, which kills large numbers every year. Covid-19 isn’t the Black Death (which killed perhaps half of all Europeans in 1348-1350).

      Some perspective please. The lockdown will only last a few months, and things will start returning to normal then. Yes, there will be further outbreaks of Covid-19. But we will learn to live with it.

  • I play in a number of summer festival orchestras. I rely on the income and I know that these events bring revenue to the communities that host them. But when I think about the close proximity we are to each other on stage and the essentially shoulder-to-shoulder proximity of our audiences, I don’t think it is worth the risk of infecting or being infected. I think we have to ask, what is the ultimate price for attempting to be normal when we know that things are not? I say cancel, then we rebuild.

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