Founded by Henry Lee Higginson, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) was first located at the site of the current Orpheum Theater and then moved to its current location in 1900. Higginson spent significant time studying European orchestras before creating the BSO in 1881 and the Boston Pops in 1885. Higginson wanted to mimic the Coliseum in Greece, as Boston was considered the Greek “Athens” of America, and included 16 Greek statues of figures related to the arts around the hall.
Today, the BSO is considered the most acoustically sounding hall in North America, and one of the top three halls in the world. The 105 member BSO is in season from September through early December and late January through early May and the Boston Pops is in season in December and May. The entire BSO moved to Tanglewood in the Berkshires section of Massachusetts for the summer. The Boston Pops consists of the same roster as the BSO minus the first chairs of each section, which make up their own touring group, the Chamber Players.
FREE tours are available on select weekdays and Saturdays afternoons. See exact dates and times and register for a tour here. Weekday tours begin at the lobby entrance (on Massachusetts Avenue) and Saturday tours begin next to the BSO Symphony Shop (on Huntington Avenue).
There are several parking garages near the BSO. More information on parking here.
Tours are handicap accessible & strollers are allowed. Restrooms are located near where the tour begins.
I would not recommend the tour for the toddler set; however, my middle school aged children loved it and we all found Elizabeth, our tour guide, to be incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and patient.
Tours last approximately 75 minutes.
Highlights of the tour include:
Hearing about the life and legacy of Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the BSO
Seeing the inside of the hall, and sitting in the first few rows of the orchestra
Listening to the sequencer recording of the Hutchings organ, built in 1900 and rebuilt in 2004. The organ chamber is 40 feet high, 13 feet deep, and runs the width of the Hall. The organ itself is the size of a six room house!
Studying the physics behind why BSO is considered one of the top three acoustically sound halls in the world. (The ceiling! The lattice! The floors!)
Learning the differences between the BSO and the Boston Pops.
6. Looking through the “peep holes” in the door to the stage.
7. Touring the green room and dressing rooms of the musicians.
8. Peeking into the recording studios (where every performance is recorded)
9. Visiting the basement, where offseason chairs are stored.
10. Reading the portrait displays of current BSO musicians and looking for empty boxes, which signifies a job opening!
Interested in other music halls? Check out our adventures at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
Looking for more fun in Boston? Check out our adventures at the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, Boston Historic Park, Charleston Navy Yard and USS Constitution and Museum, Massachusetts State House, Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Legoland Discovery Center. And for our list of 20 places we love in Massachusetts, go here.