Music, Museums, and Mountains
The Berkshires region of western Massachusetts—and Berkshire Choral Festival’s home base of Sheffield—is just a few hours' drive from New York and Boston, yet a world away. Its rolling hills, surrounded by river valleys, are a gentle continuation of the Green Mountains of Vermont. The combination of natural beauty and proximity to the cultural riches (and appetites) of two of the world’s great cities has made this compact region a remarkably satisfying summer destination.
The historic Berkshire County town of Sheffield, incorporated in 1733, is where you’ll be singing, learning, and living. It's one of the most scenic towns in the state, nestled as it is in the fertile Housatonic River Valley, with the steep slopes of the Berkshire Hills to the east and the Taconic Range to the west. Adding to its restful appeal is the fact that much of the town remains in agricultural production.
You’ll have afternoons off to rest your voice and discover Sheffield and the rest of Berkshire County.
In the Berkshires, BCF is an institution
BCF is well known among the music-lovers who descend on the Berkshires every summer—we’ve been around since 1982. Sharing the music with a large, appreciative audience of old and new friends at our home venue, the Berkshire School’s Jackman L. Stewart Center, is part of the special appeal of a singing week in Sheffield.
“World-class” is overused, but there’s no other way to describe the music, museums, dance, and theater offered here. When you’re not singing, you may be hard-pressed to decide what to do. Here’s just a sampling:
Tanglewood. The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The symphony performs in the open “Shed” and a variety of other ensembles can be heard in the barnlike Seiji Ozawa Hall. One survey of conductors and music critics named Ozawa Hall one of the best American concert halls ever built.
Clark Art Institute. Set on 140 acres complete with cows, the Clark is famed for its 19-century European and American painting, especially the French Impressionists. A major expansion designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Tadao Ando will be complete in 2014.
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA). This historic 26-building complex, a former textile mill, is one of the nation’s largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts. One gallery is the length of a football field. An entire building—an acre of wall space—is devoted to a landmark Sol LeWitt retrospective.
Normal Rockwell Museum. Founded in 1969 with the help of Norman and Molly Rockwell, it houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of original Rockwell art.
Williams College Museum of Art. As a teaching museum, WCMA is a repository for works of art in all media, from ancient to contemporary. The collection includes ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greco-Roman objects, Indian painting, African Sculpture, photography, art of the United States, and international and contemporary art.
Jacob’s Pillow. America’s first and longest-running dance festival and one of the most prestigious dance training centers in the United States. The New York Times has called it “the dance center of the nation and possibly the world.” The 220-acre campus is a National Historic Landmark.
Berkshire Theater Festival. Among the oldest professional arts venues in the Berkshires. Its Colonial Theatre is one of the country’s finest intact turn-of-the-century theaters. Winner of the 2012 New England Theatre Conference Regional Award for Excellence in Theatre.
Shakespeare & Company. This critically acclaimed Shakespeare festival is one of the nation’s largest. The company both performs and educates. It is now working with an international team of architects, scholars, and others to create the world’s only historically accurate reconstruction of the Rose Playhouse.
Williamstown Theatre Festival. This Tony Award–winning theater, founded in 1955, attracts top talent. Regulars have included the likes of Blythe Danner, Olympia Dukakis, Kate Burton, James Naughton, and Christopher Reeve.
Arrowhead. Home of Herman Melville from 1850 to 1862. Here, he wrote some of his finest works, including Moby-Dick. The view of Mount Greylock from his study window was said to be the inspiration for the white whale himself.
Hancock Shaker Village. Another National Historic Landmark, this premier collection of Shaker buildings and artifacts is set on acres of woodland and pastures. One of its most notable buildings is its 1826 round stone barn.
The Mount Estate and Gardens. Edith Wharton’s stunning, meticulously restored turn-of-the century estate. It embodies the principles set forth in the novelist’s influential 1897 book The Decoration of Houses.
Naumkeag. This 44-room Gilded Age summer “cottage” designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1885 is a National Historic Landmark. Renowned for its gardens too.
Hiking and gardens
Berkshire Botanic Garden. One of the nation’s oldest, it features both display gardens and educational programs.
Hebert Arboretum. A 231-acre living tree library that is sanctuary for both plant and animal life.
Mount Everett State Reservation. 1,350 acres, with three-state panoramas. Part of the Appalachian Trail.
Mount Greylock. The highest point in Massachusetts. At nearly 3,500 feet, it offers a five-state view.