Tisbury Travel Club hosts hassle-free trips off Martha’s Vineyard

Tisbury Council on Aging Activities Director Sandra Whitworth, center, keeps tabs on Tisbury Travel Club members after a Boston Symphony matinée concert January 6. From left are Charles and Nancy Blank, Jeanette Johnson, and Rise Terney. — Photo by Janet Hefler

For many Vineyarders, traffic and parking are daunting when it comes to attending a cultural event in Boston or taking a day trip off Island.

To take those hassles out of travel off “the Rock,” the Tisbury Travel Club (TTC), led by Tisbury Council on Aging Activities Director Sandra Whitworth, offers a variety of organized trips throughout the year. Although seniors get first priority, Islanders of any age can participate.

In addition to travel opportunities, the club offers sociability. “No one has to be alone,” Ms. Whitworth said. “You have a community there, to welcome you with open arms. The bottom line is, we have fun.”

For those who love the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), the TTC offers an easy-come, easy-go option for attending Friday matinée concerts. Starting in the fall, a group of subscribers to a five-concert series can board a chartered motor coach in Woods Hole, ride in comfort to Boston, and get dropped off and picked up steps away from Symphony Hall.

Concert-goers arrive a few hours before the matinée, with time to shop, enjoy lunch at one of the many good restaurants close by, and/or attend a pre-concert lecture.

Music and more in America

On January 6 my husband, Pete, and I enjoyed a TTC symphony excursion firsthand. When some friends offered their concert tickets to us, it was music to my ears, in more ways than one. I’m not saying that some of us Islanders get into a rut, but sometimes I do wonder if it is impossible for us to make a trip to America without ending up at Wal-Mart.

Our concert day started with a trip on the 8:15 am ferry, where we met up in Woods Hole with Ms. Whitworth and the other symphony-goers to board a chartered Plymouth and Brockton coach. Driver Bill Shean, a 32-year veteran of the company, said he has enjoyed several trips with the TTC.

Pete and I sat across the aisle from each other, which gave me the opportunity to talk with Elaine Eugster of Tisbury. We were surprised to discover we were both former Baltimore Symphony Orchestra patrons.

Ms. Eugster said that after she moved to Martha’s Vineyard about 10 years ago, she was delighted to find out about the opportunity to attend BSO concerts through the TTC. “It’s a long day, but a fun day,” she said.

Our relaxed and quiet bus ride was just right for reading, napping, and contemplating why anyone in his or her right mind would ever want to drive a car into Boston again.

On arrival we made a quick stop in front of the Prudential Center on Boylston Street. We were given the option to get off there or ride a few more blocks to Symphony Hall, where we could attend a pre-concert talk at 12:30.

Since most of the concert-goers opted to get off at the Prudential Center, Pete’s and my herd instinct kicked in and we followed them. Faced with an array of choices in a cavernous labyrinth of stores, we ducked into Barnes and Noble, the first one we came to. That turned out to be a good strategy, as we could combine two pastimes, shopping and drinking coffee.

Plus, that put us only a short distance away from our choice for lunch, the Cheesecake Factory, which seemed to have enough tables to seat the entire town of Tisbury and a menu the size of the Island phone book. We discovered there is such a thing as low-carb cheesecake. Next time we’ll eat dessert first. Or period.

Afterwards we waddled a few blocks to Symphony Hall, where we were delighted to find our seats were only eight rows from the stage. BSO Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger led the concert with his energetic, whimsical style. His enthusiasm made us smile as he bounced up and down on his toes, punctuated musical passages with wide gestures of his baton, and matched the mood of the music with his facial expressions.

The BSO musicians exhibited talent and versatility as they went from performing a traditional Joseph Haydn symphony to a contemporary concerto,”From the Wreckage,” composed in 2005 for trumpet and orchestra by Mark-Anthony Turnage. To our surprise, he came onstage after the performance to congratulate the musicians.

The concert concluded with “Also sprach Zarathustra,” by Richard Strauss. Although unfamiliar by name, we recognized its first three opening notes as the same used at the start of the opening score for the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Before those familiar notes sounded from the symphony hall’s powerful pipe organ, we could feel its reverberations under our feet.

Joining the ensemble

Ms. Whitworth organized the TTC’s first BSO trips to the five-concert Fall “A” series in 1997. The group began with 30 and has 50 this year.

“You can get a subscription for $145 to $500, so dividing that up by 5, it can be as little as $29 per concert and up, depending on where you sit in the hall,” she said. “And there really is no bad seat in the concert hall.”

The charter bus cost this year is $96 per person for five trips, based on the number of participants. The $19.20 round-trip fee includes the driver’s gratuity. That’s less than half the roundtrip senior fare from Woods Hole to South Station on Peter Pan bus lines and avoids taxi, bus or subway fare to Symphony Hall, Ms. Whitworth said.

The BSO’s 2012-13 season will be announced this spring. Current subscribers will receive a renewal packet in March or early April, Ms. Whitworth said, and those who already participate in TTC’s program get “first dibs” on bus seats for the next season.

She advised that people interested in becoming new BSO subscribers and joining TTC’s excursions should call her first, and the sooner the better, since she puts newcomers on a list in the order they call. She then contacts the BSO for them, to make sure they are sent information, and follows up with TTC arrangements.

For those who want to give the symphony trips a trial run, Ms. Whitworth suggests calling her about being a substitute, as Pete and I were. Substitutes reimburse subscribers for the symphony ticket and bus fees.

“Also, if someone gets a ticket for the symphony and if we have an empty seat on the bus, we’ll sell it to them,” Ms. Whitworth said.

TTC updates are published in 55 Plus, a monthly newsletter printed in The Times.

Upcoming plans include a trip to the Boston Flower and Garden Show on March 15 and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on May 11. On June 21 the club will visit Gloucester, with a tour of Beauport, a National Historic Register home, and the Rocky Neck Art Colony.

For more details about the BSO matinée concerts, upcoming trips, and to make reservations, call Ms. Whitworth at 508-696-4205.