Tanglewood: Background information when reading The Locals

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The Locals

by Jonathan Dee

The Locals by Jonathan Dee X
The Locals by Jonathan Dee
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 400 pages
    Aug 2018, 416 pages

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Gary Presley

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This article relates to The Locals

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TanglewoodThe cluster of small towns in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts where The Locals is set is near Tanglewood, a fact referred to several times in the narrative.

The Berkshires have long been a summer get-away destination. There are lodges, cultural sites, and several historical spots, including the homes of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Steepletop), William Cullen Bryant (Homestead), and perhaps the most magnificent of Edith Wharton's homes, The Mount. And the great American novel, Moby Dick, was written in the Berkshires. You can visit Melville's house, Arrowhead, in the Berkshires.

1936 Summer HomeThe highest point in the Berkshires is Crum Hill, 2,841 feet, and the average temperature in the Berkshire County town of Great Barrington in July and August is about 80 degrees. There is no better prime get-away from the asphalt and skyscrapers of the Boston-to-New York metropolitan corridor.

Tanglewood became an arts destination in 1934 when a group of residents organized a concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In August, 1936, the Boston Symphony came to the Berkshires, giving a concert – under a tent! – to 15,000 appreciative fans. Thereafter, the Berkshires, and Tanglewood, became the Boston Symphony's summer home, something made possible by two generous patrons: "In the winter of 1936, Mrs. Gorham Brooks and Miss Mary Aspinwall Tappan who, in 1936, gave their Tappan family estate, including 210 acres of property and all of its buildings, to Boston Symphony music director Serge Koussevitzky and his orchestra. Later, after an architect dismissed Tanglewood's budget as barely big enough to build a shed, the group contacted a local engineer who constructed a building with beautiful acoustics, a venue that's stood the test of time. At its 50th anniversary in 1988, it was re-named "The Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed," in honor of the BSO's conductor/director who brought the orchestra to Tanglewood.

Serge Koussevitzky Music ShedToday Tanglewood has evolved to be more comprehensive artistically. There's the BSO, as always, and John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra, but the venue has also expanded to host popular musicians such as Melissa Etheridge, Pete Townshend, Santana, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Steve Winwood and the imitable Warren Zevon. Additionally, there are non-music events. There's a Family Fun Fest, Talks and Walks, and Yoga on the Lawn among other things.

Tangled, courtesy of Destination 360
Mrs. Gorham Brooks and Mary Aspinwall Tappan's donated summer home that became Tanglewood, 1936, courtesy of lenoxhistory.org
The Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed, courtesy of The Berkshire Eagle

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Locals. It originally ran in August 2017 and has been updated for the August 2018 paperback edition.

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