“The Shakers” at the Tanglewood Bicentennial
In 1969, the same year the “Berkshire Civic Ballet” incorporated as a nonprofit (along with other major Berkshires cultural institutions, Norman Rockwell Museum and Chesterwood) a committee was formed under the auspices of the Berkshire County Historical Society to begin plans for a massive celebration weekend locally for the upcoming national Bicentennial in 1976.
Seven years later, this extensive celebration came to fruition, with one of its focal points being a diverse performance of art forms at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home at Tanglewood.
More than 4500 attendees crowded the shed and lawn of this extravaganza. Among the many musical and theatrical performances, that day, “Two sparkling performances stood tall above the others,” according to the Berkshire Eagle (7/6/76).
Berkshire Ballet dancers rehearse for “The Shakers” in front of the Shed at Tanglewood. -Photo by Joel Librizzi
“The Berkshire Ballet, in a work choreographed by Doris Humphrey sketched a picture of the Shakers that was stunningly evocative of Early American spiritualism and religious fervor. John A. Culpo’s accordion, sounding like a stark, plaintive pump organ, and a simple vocal line by soprano Deborah Beardsley, gave the ballet an added element of mysticism.”
ABB Archives, Production Files
Audiences were delighted with the piece, first created by Humphrey in 1930, and it became part of the company’s ever-expanding repertoire.
ABB later performed restagings of the work in 1983, 1987, and 1995.