This weekend we celebrated my father-in-law’s 90th birthday (March) and my oldest brother-in-law’s 60th birthday (May). The clan of 15 (we were minus three grandchildren) gathered for two nights at the Shaker Mill Inn in West Stockbridge, MA, just three miles from Tanglewood, our main destination. Our family (on both my husband’s side and mine) has long enjoyed attending Tanglewood, back from the days when my brother and I spent summers at sleep-away camp in Pittsfield.
Oh my goodness! I was all set to write that the camp has long since been sold and the property subdivided (which is what we had been told years ago), but a quick search for “Camp Mohawk in the Berkshires” yielded an amazing story! The camp does exist and is currently being run as a day camp by the son (and his wife) of the folks who ran it back in the nineteen-sixties and -seventies. Yikes!
Over the past twenty or so years, we have attended Tanglewood with various members of my husband’s family and my Dad. My most recent visit was about five years ago, when I took my Dad to the Red Lion Inn for an evening and we had a last hurrah (for him) at Tanglewood.
This weekend marked the opening of Tanglewood’s summer schedule, though not the “official” opening as the Boston Symphony Orchestra doesn’t have its first performance until July 3.
Another long standing enjoyment in our family is listening on Saturday evenings in the winter and into the spring to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion on NPR (National Public Radio). Somewhere around twenty years ago we attended our first live performance of the show at Town Hall in New York City, quite fittingly along with the brother-in-law who just celebrated his 60th and his wife. After the show, the four of us went out to dinner and who should come into the restaurant and eat at the table across from ours, but Garrison Keillor, the cast of the show, and the guest musical performer, John Sebastian (of the Lovin’ Spoonful). About ten years ago we took our sons to Town Hall for their first live performance of the show.
Fast forward to Saturday night, June 27, 5:45 p.m., and Garrison is warming up the audience fifteen minutes prior to show time. He’s walking up and down the aisles singing, and we are all singing along with him. He gives us the particulars about a live radio show, the warm up ends, and the show begins, featuring all the regulars plus several guests, among them Martin Sheen, Steve Martin playing his banjo (WOW can he PLAY!) with The Steep Canyon Rangers, and Heather Masse and her beautiful voice. All of this made for a savory and relished listening and laughing experience. And that, my friends, would have been enough, but not for Garrison. Up his sleeve was a special guest appearance by Arlo Guthrie! If you are like my 18 year old, you said “Who?”, but if you grew up in the States in the 50s, 60s or early 70s, you probably know who Arlo is, and Alice’s Restaurant is well known to you.
Okay, so the two hour show plus fifteen minute warmup was delightful. And that, my friends, would have been enough, but not for Garrison. We, along with a large number of the audience, were on our feet clapping and singing, and Garrison returned for an encore. I lost count, but there must have been five encores, with Steve Martin in the early ones, and Heather and Arlo in the remaining ones, and Martin Sheen joining the ending ones. And how long did the encores last – oh, for a mere hour and twenty minutes! And what happened in the encores? We sang along with Garrison and Arlo, at one point going for twelve or so stanzas – many of them improvised on the spot – of We Shall Overcome, including: We are happily married, It’s time to pass the hat, I was an English major… plus verses sung by the ladies, by the men, by those who sing bass…
We wafted out of Tanglewood around 9:40 p.m., happy, sung out, smiley faced, feeling good, and ready for some rousing rounds of Apples To Apples at the Inn with a 90, 80, 60, 58, 54, 52 and 10 year old, followed by some great late night conversation with siblings, in-laws, and spouses. (That’s Garrison singing his bass stanza, and he can truly sing bass!)
My amygdala is pumped, memories have flooded the forefront, and new memories have been laid down. Neurons firing? You bet!
Watch and listen as Steve Martin plays the title song of his new banjo CD, The Crow (on which he wrote all the songs), with The Steep Canyon Rangers. They played this Saturday night, though this video was recorded elsewhere.