Tanglewood Festival Chorus Summer 2020 – Guest Singers

The Boston Symphony Orchestra invites students to apply to sing alongside the orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus at the 2020 Tanglewood Music Festival.

The all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC) gave its debut concert in April 1970 at Symphony Hall under the baton of Leonard Bernstein. The chorus is the BSO’s own choral ensemble, and it performs in five to six subscription programs from September to April, at Holiday Pops concerts in December, as well as Spring Pops performances. Three times each summer, the TFC takes part in short residencies at Tanglewood, the BSO’s summer home in the Berkshires. The chorus will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020–2021.

In time for summer 2020, the BSO extends an invitation to singers who are currently enrolled at a college or university to apply to join the TFC for its Tanglewood residency from July 29 to August 2.

Below is a note from BSO Choral Director James Burton with more details about the week’s musical offerings.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is delighted to offer an exciting choral opportunity to collegiate-affiliated singers at the 2020 Tanglewood Music Festival. Following a series of rehearsals in Boston, guest singers will travel to Tanglewood and take part in choral performances from July 31–August 2.

Concerts include a Prelude performance in Ozawa Hall (July 31, 6pm), and two programs with the Boston Symphony conducted by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons. On Saturday, August 1 the chorus joins the orchestra for a rare performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 3. On Sunday, August 2 the chorus will perform Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard which was commissioned by Tanglewood founder Serge Koussevitzky and first performed by the BSO in 1954.

Under my direction, guest singers will make music alongside members of the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood Festival Chorus, exploring the repertoire together and sharing the experience of being surrounded by the beauty of Tanglewood and its special atmosphere.

If you are a keen choral singer who would like to expand your experience and meet some like-minded musicians, we look forward to hearing from you!

- James Burton, BSO Choral Director



Interested applicants must be:

  • enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program
  • at least 18 years old by July 29, 2020
  • proficient in English

Participation Expectations

If accepted, singers are expected to:

attend all Boston piano rehearsals leading up to the residency*

    • Wednesday, July 15 | 6pm – 9:30pm
      • Orientation Meeting and 1st Rehearsal
    • Monday, July 20 | 7pm – 9:30pm
    • Thursday, July 23 | 7pm – 9:30pm
    • Monday, July 27 | 7pm – 9:30pm

attend all rehearsals and performances at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA*

    • Wednesday, July 29
      • 3:30pm – 4:30pm | Piano Rehearsal
      • 5pm – 6:30pm | Shostakovich Orchestra Rehearsal
      • 6:30pm – 7:30pm | Barber Piano Rehearsal with Andris Nelsons
    • Thursday, July 30
      • 9am – 12:30pm | Warm-up and Orchestra Rehearsal
      • 1pm – 3:30pm | Prelude Concert Rehearsal
    • Friday, July 31
      • 9am – 12:30pm | Warm-up and Orchestra Rehearsal
      • 5pm – 7pm | Prelude Performance
    • Saturday, August 1
      • 9am – 12:30pm | Warm-up and Orchestra Rehearsal
      • 7pm – 10pm | Warm-up and Shostakovich Performance
    • Sunday, August 2
      • 1:30pm – 4:30pm Warm-up and Barber Performance

*Note on housing: Singers are responsible for their own housing, meal, and transportation accommodations for Boston piano rehearsals. The BSO will provide housing for singers while at Tanglewood from July 29–August 2. All singers will also be provided transportation and meal per diems during their stay at Tanglewood. More information can be found in the FAQ.

Residency Weekend Concert Details

July 31, 2020, 6pm | Seiji Ozawa Hall
James Burton conducts the TFC Prelude Concert Repertoire TBD

August 1, 2020, 8pm | Koussevitzky Music Shed
Andris Nelsons conducts Shostakovich and Brahms featuring Daniil Trifonov, piano
 Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Burton, conductor
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1
 Daniil Trifonov, piano

August 2, 2020, 2:30pm | Koussevitzky Music Shed
Andris Nelsons conducts Nathan, Barber and Dvořák
Eric NATHAN Concerto for Orchestra
BARBER Prayers of Kierkegaard, for soprano, chorus, and orchestra
 Rachel Willis-Sørensen, soprano
 Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Burton, conductor
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto
 Yo-Yo Ma, cello 

Audition Materials – Due May 1, 2020

To apply, please complete the following by May 1, 2020.

  1. Fill out the TFC Guest Singer Application Form.
  2. Send the following to tfc@bso.org.
    1. An .mp3 or video of yourself singing Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (b. 86-153) from Brahms’ Requiem
      • Sing the voice part you are most comfortable with
      • It can be sung with accompaniment (recommended) or a cappella
      • Please sing in German. A pronunciation mp3 is LINKED HERE.
      • Post-production editing (including modifying the reverberation) should not be used on the recording.
      • Label your recording “Last Name_First Name_2020Brahms” and use the subject line “Tanglewood 2020 TFC Audition” when submitting via email to tfc@bso.org.
    2. An .mp3 or video of yourself singing through the provided vocal exercises.
      • PDFs of the vocal exercises for all voice parts are below.
      • Please select the voice part you are most comfortable singing from the options below, and record the vocal exercises.
      • Label your recording “Last Name_First Name_2020Exercises”

        Soprano 1 Alto 1 Tenor 1 Bass 1
        Soprano 2 Alto 2 Tenor 2 Bass 2
BSO Choral Director James Burton and the 2019 Tanglewood Festival Chorus Guest Singers
BSO Choral Director James Burton and the
2019 Tanglewood Festival Chorus Guest Singers.

Being a guest in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus last summer opened a world of learning and music making that I didn’t know existed. Meeting world class musicians, attending intensive workshops, making new connections, singing thrilling music—the experience was more than I could have imagined. BSO Choral Director James Burton is incredibly engaging and approachable, while he simultaneously sets a high bar for excellence.

- Jillian Hirst, TFC Guest Singer, Tanglewood 2019


Where do piano rehearsals take place?
All Boston piano rehearsals take place at Boston Symphony Hall (301 Massachusetts Ave Boston, MA 02115) in the Chorus Room. Piano rehearsals during the Tanglewood residency take place in various spaces on Tanglewood’s campus.

I am starting college in Fall 2020, am I eligible to apply?
Incoming first years are eligible to apply as long as they are at least 18 years old before July 29, 2020.

When will I know the results of my audition?
Results will be sent to all applicants by May 10, 2020.

I have a conflict with one of the rehearsals, am I still eligible?
Absences from Boston rehearsals will be considered on a case-by-case basis. No conflicts will be permitted for the final rehearsals at Tanglewood. The Choral Director will consider availability when reviewing each audition. In spite of known conflicts, interested singers are still encouraged to audition and state their full availability on the application form.

Does the BSO provide housing in Boston?
The BSO does not offer housing nor reimbursement for any potential housing/travel arrangements necessary to partake in Boston piano rehearsals.

What is the housing and transportation like at Tanglewood?
The BSO offers to arrange housing in double hotel rooms for all singers*. Singers also have the option to arrange their own housing in the Berkshires and will be reimbursed post-residency $90/night per singer.

While in the Berkshires, the BSO does not provide daily transportation to and from Tanglewood. However, TFC members often facilitate carpools amongst themselves.

*If a singer requests a single room or arranges to have family stay in a room held by the BSO, the singer is responsible for paying the difference.

What is the meal per diem?
The meal per diem is based on the anticipated number of meals each singer will have at Tanglewood. It will start with dinner on July 29 and go through lunch on August 2. Per diem checks will be distributed ahead of the residency.

How do I get from Boston to Tanglewood?
The most efficient way to travel to Tanglewood is by car. Many TFC members choose to carpool with each other, and this is facilitated via the TFC’s member website, Chorus Connection. Upon acceptance, guests will be added to Chorus Connection.