Wine and song: Boston Symphony back outdoors at Tanglewood
LENOX, Mass. (AP) — The hills really are alive with the sound of music.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2016 outdoor season at Tanglewood — one of New England's most chilled-out rites of summer. Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine and a picnic basket and head to the leafy venue nestled in the Berkshires, where you can stretch out on the manicured lawns and enjoy a little Brahms with your brie and Bordeaux.
A guide to all things Tanglewood, which opens Friday and runs through Sept. 3:
RING THE BELL
The world-class orchestra starts things off with violinist Joshua Bell conducted by Canadian maestro Jacques Lacombe. Bell will play Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3 in a program that also will include Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and Ravel's "Alborada del Gracioso." All that gets going at 8 p.m. Friday in the Tanglewood campus venue known as the Shed; early birds who turn up at 6 p.m. will be treated to selections from Beethoven and Ravel by select BSO members performing at Ozawa Hall.
NAMES THAT DROP LOUDLY
Some familiar, if surprising, performers are on tap as the season plays out. "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, a baritone with a passion for popular American classics from the 1940s and '50s, appears with the Boston Pops Orchestra on Sunday. Eighty-year-old maestro Seiji Ozawa, a crowd favorite, canceled his appearances on the advice of his doctor, but other stars beckon: the Chick Corea Trio on July 31; the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma on Aug. 7; John Williams on Aug. 13, conducting renditions of the theme songs he wrote for the "Jaws," ''Star Wars," ''Indiana Jones" and "Harry Potter" movies.
A PRETTY GRAND FINALE
The season concludes on the evening of Sept. 3, Labor Day weekend, with the Boston Pops under the baton of Keith Lockhart, now in his 21st season with that orchestra. They'll perform a "Dancing Under the Stars" concert, covering everyone from Benny Goodman to ABBA. Dance floors will be set up on the lawn. Not quite ready to bust a move? No worries: You can sign up for a pre-concert dance lesson. Fun fact: Tanglewood held its first concert on Aug. 13, 1936, so it's celebrating its 80th birthday next month.
TICKETS AND TIPS
Tanglewood ticket prices vary widely, and it's always highly advisable to book in advance. Seats on the lawn, where you can picnic with whatever you bring, are the best value at $12; admission to the covered venues can run $55 or higher. You can rent lawn chairs and seat cushions, and even order picnic food in advance by phone or online. Options for couples include "Date Nights," which run July 15, 22 and 29 and Aug. 5 and 19 — for $120 to $150, depending on seat selections, packages include a pre-concert dinner at the decidedly highbrow Highwood Manor House.
Peter Pan and Greyhound offer bus service to the Lenox area. If you're staying in Boston on vacation and considering a day trip, you'll probably want to overnight in the Berkshires unless you're up for five hours or more of round-trip driving, including a late-night schlep back to the city after an evening concert at Tanglewood. The Berkshire Visitors Bureau is a good place to start for lodging, dining and other activities.
Follow Bill Kole on Twitter at https://twitter.com/billkole. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/william-j-kole.