Good Evening—Welcome to Tanglewood

My two week vacation in the Berkshires was extended somewhat. Mom loves the Berkshires, so I asked her if she would like to join me for the two weeks. And because she loves the Berkshires, we decided to spend more time here—like six weeks. I have to admit, I could be swallowed up here in all the summer plays and especially, Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) summers. Relaxing under a cool night’s sky is truly a respite for this Texan (I guess living in Texas for 40 years should make me a Texan by now.)

What a great place to write and “veg” out as they say. Then I decide—attending Tanglewood and hearing the Boston Symphony and other great performers every night could get costly at $20 a pop (and that’s sitting on the lawn). But if I volunteer to work twenty hours, I can get any and every performance free—just my price!

So I go to the volunteer office and surprise…they need more volunteers. In fact, it takes 560 volunteers to run Tanglewood every summer. I am so excited, I sign up for wherever they need me the most. I happily run back to my brother’s cottage and devour all the paperwork. That’s when I realize they forgot to give me my season passes…my coveted volunteer and companion badges that will admit me, along with a friend, into any performance I want to see.

The next day, I go back to the volunteer office to get said badges, which they hand over very graciously. Really nice people. When I get home, my sister-in-law gives me one of her previous BSO ribbons so my badges will hang properly around my neck. And I am set.

Two nights later, I am ready for my first volunteering experience. I am told I will be an usher at Ozawa Hall. I get all dressed in my fancy blue blouse, black capris, and beige sandals. It’s 87 degrees out, a beautiful night. I walk up to the other ushers and introduce myself. Now let me say here, that these people, both men and women, are true music lovers and old time Tanglewood people. They know every lullaby Brahms ever wrote. They can rattle off names of conductors like Vladimir Jurowski and Christoph von Dohnányi in the wink of an eye. They live 10 months of the year solely for the purpose of getting to these two months in the summer when they can volunteer at Tanglewood for the BSO. They take one look at me and know I am all wrong for this prestigious job.

“You can’t work with a blue shirt,” one kind lady says. Her badge shows her name to be Jane.

“Capris are not allowed on the job,” another one offers. “And only close toed/close heeled black shoes,” she kindly offers.

“Didn’t you read your dress guide?” Mary asks. “And only long black pants or midi-length black skirt.”

I notice Mary has on navy blue pants. “Or navy blue?” I ask nodding at her pants. I’m afraid I have outted her at her own game for which I am immediately sorry.

“Oh, my,” she cries in horror. “They looked black in the closet. Too late to run home and change; I can’t believe I did that.” She is on the verge of tears, but her husband, who is volunteering with her, consoles her as best he can.

“But you definitely can’t usher in the clothes you are wearing,” Jane says.

Boss-lady shows up. She is a bit flustered at the sight of me, but quickly gains her composure when I ask if perhaps I could just get a white blouse from my sister-in-law for tonight. She is a very sweet lady, and since she is short on ushers, she agrees for this night only.

I call my sister-in-law, Jill. I know I can’t wear her black pants or skirts. I’m slightly bigger than she is. However, she agrees to bring me the coveted white blouse. I see a shopping trip in my near future, since I usher again tomorrow night.

Boss-lady has a name—Evelyn. It is early, 5:30; I find I didn’t need to be there until 6:00 p.m. The other ushers are a bit miffed at having been told the earlier time also. Evelyn loves Tanglewood so much; she insists on taking me on a tour of the grounds.Ozawa

We start at Osawa Hall, named for the famous Japanese conductor. Built in 1994, the balconies and stage of this building display intricate latticework of Maple, Douglas Fir, and Teak woods. The hall holds 1,200 people and when the huge back doors are open, 2,000 more can sit on the lawn and enjoy the chamber music.

Evelyn’s favorite place is The Carriage House. She takes me all through the huge building that used to be a real carriage house and horse stables. The original rings used to tether the horses are still in the walls. The stable gates show the beautiful grain in the original wood. Today this carriagehousemagnificent building is used as the music students’ center and includes many individual practice rooms. Evelyn takes me upstairs to see the gorgeous view and reminds me that I am very fortunate to see the inside because the general public is not allowed in this building. We can’t linger here long, because the Tanglewood gates will open soon, and I need to be at my station.

We continue on to the Hickory Gate where she introduces me to two delightful security people. It is obvious that these two love their jobs. They rib each other about who has worked at Tanglewood the longest. Then we zoom over to Lions’ Gate and meet the ushers and greeters there. Again, these people live for this volunteer gig.

By this time, my sister-in-law calls from the Hickory Gate that she has brought her blouse. So back to the Hickory Gate I go. Since the car has darkened windows, I jump in the back seat, tear off my blue blouse and put on the appropriate wear for this evening. My dress faux-pas is put to rest, with the exception of the missing two buttons and the safety pin I need to keep the blouse closed.

Besides that, it’s about two sizes too small. Now I really look like a stuffed penguin as I rush back to Ozawa Hall to start my official duties of ushering.

Jane meets me at the hall. “Why do you have a red BSO ribbon?” she asks. “You should have a green one, so everyone knows you are new.”

“Where would I have gotten a green one?” I ask. “This is one of my sister-in-law’s old ones.”

“It should have been in your packet.”

I can tell she is only trying to help me.

“You will have to get one tomorrow from the volunteer office.”

“I’ll do that,” I assure her.

Now the real training begins. Chairs cannot be set up in the lawn before 6:30. People with blankets may lay them up front on the lawn. Sand chairs go behind the blanket people and regular lawn chairs go behind the sand chairs. Parents with children under 5 years old must be at the far back of the lawn. Children are not allowed to climb the trees. And we invite everyone to share their program with another. I find later that some people don’t like to share their programs and tell me so. These people always get more than one. I learn the location of the restrooms, how long the first section will be, how long intermission is, and the length of the last part of the program. Apparently, these are common questions people ask.

“Good evening,” I learn to say to each person. “Welcome to Tanglewood.”

And so it goes for the next hour, and then I’m done. I am free to stay and enjoy the performance along with everyone else or go home. By this time, I am ready to put my feet up and delight in watching Rizzoli and Isles on TV with my husband back at the cottage. Tomorrow is another day.

Categories Legacy Writing Prompts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Posted on July 26, 2013

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  1. by Betty Zoeller

    On July 28, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all about it. You painted a delightful picture. As I recall, 87 degrees is hot and humid in Mass., with many mosquitos. It’s sad that I remember that the most. Maybe the locals have learned a secret to deal with that and just forgot to share it with me.

    I loved hearing of everyones love for music. Thank you!!

  2. by Maryella Vause

    On July 28, 2013

    Wonderful so glad you’re enjoying the Berkshires our daughter lives just down the road from Tanglewood at 16 Stockbridge Road it is the solid rock Farm and she would be happy to welcome you.. Her name is Katherine Vause

  3. by Judy Watters

    On July 28, 2013

    Hi Maryella, I will try to visit her before I leave. Maybe she will have some fresh veggies for me to bring back to you 🙂

  4. by Judy Watters

    On July 28, 2013

    Hi Betty, Yes, 87 degrees can be hot and humid. At Tanglewood, they spray the grass with some mild pesticide. We have never had a problem there. However, my morning walks have come to a screeching halt. The huge biting deer flies our ridiculous around the lake.

  5. by Maryella Vause

    On August 27, 2013

    Looking forward to seeing you this evening.
    I enjoyed your blog on volunteering at Tanglewood.
    You didn’t do as my daughter does and go to the free rehearsals

  6. by Judy Watters

    On August 27, 2013

    I am so sorry I didn’t get to visit your daughter when I was there. My time got away from me. I don’t know if the rehearsals are free anymore. HMM…will have to check that out next year. See you soon.

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