Friday, September 9, 2011

Redneck in the Berkshires

I thought it might be interesting for some of you to get a perspective of Massachusetts from an East Texas boy who went wandering around in the some of most beautiful hills and woods I've ever seen in my life. And brother, I've been around.

First, it is necessary to give some color as to why a die hard Southerner would venture all the way up into a predominately democratic liberal state. I mean come on now brothers and sisters, I wouldn't walk across the street to spit on Barney Frank if he was on fire. And I mean that from the bottom of my chicken fried with cream gravy heart.

But as the story goes and as a lot of you know already, music is a big part of my life so it should serve as no surprise that this musical gene would be passed along to my offspring. It's a funny thing about genes though as you never know what you're going to get in the milkshake. My music tastes as well as experience stem from smokey bars and juke joints placing me a little out of my comfort zone when my oldest started singing classical music. That is not to say that I don't like classical music because I do. However, for me to try and sing something classical would be like putting on a pair of high heel shoes. Extremely painful and wouldn't look too good with my cargo shorts.

William has been singing since the day he could ride around in a car seat. Great pitch and right on key but you know how it is when you're a parent. Every crow thinks his baby is the blackest so we really didn't know what to think. He began singing in the Dallas Children's Chorus pretty early on and when his voice changed, I thought that was that. At least until he started singing in the school choir which caught the ears of our musical director at Marvin United Methodist Church. He told us that William might be a good candidate for Tanglewood. I had never heard of Tanglewood because here again, my music school was on the south side of town.

This would lead to questions as to what kind of place was Tanglewood. After consulting with my symphony friends, I was told that this was the most prestigious music school in the country and if he were to be accepted, it would be a really big deal.

And so...the musical journey would now begin as I'll be damned if they didn't accept him leading me all the way to Massachusetts for a week in August to listen to his performances.

Now here is where I have to turn off the proud parent thing and put myself in a place to offer you an honest perspective. Please understand that I love music. All kinds of music but it has to be music that's written and performed from the soul. I'm not nor have I ever been a fan of popular music and even as a youth, my peers would raise their eyebrows at my musical tastes. So keep that in mind as I give you this description as to fully appreciate Tanglewood, you have to love music.

Tanglewood is a division of Boston University. It is the summer home for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and serves as an outdoor venue that caters to artists passing through such as Yo-Yo Ma and James Taylor. It is nestled in the Berkshires which is in the western parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The grounds' 500 acres are spread across two former privately owned estates.  It was purchased in 1841 by Samuel G. Ward, a banker, who would ultimately name the land "Highwood".  Eight years later William Aspinwall Tappan purchased a neighboring parcel of land. Tappan's acreage extended to the shores of nearby Lake Mahkeenac referred to now as Stockbridge Bowl. One parcel of the property had a little red house on it and Tappan rented it out to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family in 1850.

In the beginning, Hawthorne enjoyed living there. During the spring, summer and fall of that year, he wrote "The House of the Seven Gables" and a childhood anthology of short stories entitled "TheTanglewood Tales".  However, when the first snows of winter fell, he wrapped up his family and headed back to Boston, declaring he would never put up with the isolation of another Berkshire winter.  Despite this, Tappan fell in love with Hawthorne's literary childhood creation and named his property "Tanglewood".

So what was it like? Well I'll just say that Tanglewood for me was more of a religious experience than a trip. Imagine sitting on a perfect lawn with huge white oak trees in 70 degree weather while the Boston Symphony performs right in front of you. Oh and let's not leave out the two hundred person chorus singing behind them. I've never experienced anything like it in my life and I say that with all honesty. It was truly one of the greatest experiences I've ever had and I would highly recommend a summer visit. I'm already trying to figure out how I could move there during the month of August. The only hitch is I'm not sure those folks would know what to do with a good old boy living amongst them. It's bad enough to think about an East Texas conservative mixing it up with a bunch of granola looking liberals. Let alone the barbecue pit I would have to haul in which I'm sure would break all kinds of environmental laws. I guess they would just have to get used to me and the hickory smoke.

Here's to you damn Yankees. That's quite a backyard you folks have got.

Watch this video on YouTube

No comments:

Post a Comment