July 3, 2012 | « back

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE – James Taylor: Shed the best summertime venue

By: James Taylor, Special to The Eagle

Tanglewood’s big outdoor Koussevitzky Music Shed, built in 1938, has served as the prototype of many large, open-air music festival halls that have since been opened around the country. The Blossom shed outside of Cleveland, Ravinia near Chicago, Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C., SPAC in upstate New York, Red Rocks outside Denver, Chastain Park in Atlanta, Nashville’s Starwood, Jones Beach on Long Island, N.Y. — there’s a long list of lovely summertime music venues that have followed Tanglewood’s lead, and I’ve played them all.

These “sheds,” as they’re called in the biz, have been my main workplace over the past four decades, and for me, on a warm night in June or July, are the collective home of my fondest memories from a life on the road.

Tanglewood is the best. There are many reasons why. First, it’s where Kim and I have chosen to live and raise our twin boys, Rufus and Henry. There’s a sweetness to life in the Berkshires, and traveling as much as we do, it’s always a delight to come home to Lenox.

Then there’s the blessing of having been accepted as a part of the wonderful musical family that is Tanglewood and the BSO. I thank my wife, Kim, for that; she had been working with the Symphony for a full 20 years when we met.

There’s also no doubt that the beautiful physical landscape of the Koussevitzky Shed and the gardens that surround it have a lot to do with the magic of the place. One waxes rhapsodic at the prospect of an evening under the stars with friends, loved ones, and the company of fellow lovers of music in a tradition that seems to belong to another era.

But of all these things, it is surely the Tanglewood audience that makes this place so special to me: I feel as though I am with my own people, that a family reunion is taking place, an ongoing conversation, a sort of traditional get-together.

With all the weight of responsibility and performance anxiety that accompanies the attention of such a large crowd of intelligent concert-goers, it is still, unquestionably for me, the blessing of a lifetime.

James Taylor, the singer-songwriter who lives with his family in the town of Washington just a few miles from Tanglewood, first performed at the Boston Symphony’s summer home in 1974. He returned in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001-2003 and annually from 2005 through 2012. In all, he has performed in the Shed and in Ozawa Hall nearly 40 times.