The Boardwalk Jazz Group playing on the Weirs Beach boardwalk on July 30, 2023. Rob Ames on soprano sax, Andrew Emanuel on tenor sax, Mike Levine on piano, Jarrod Taylor on guitar, Al Hospers on bass, and Mike Walsh on drums.
Music at Weirs Beach has had a very, very long tradition. More recently, the Winnipesaukee Marketplace featured a free jazz series from 2014-2020, and Barbershoppers concerts from 1992-2019. Click here for the history of the free jazz series.
Still playing on the Weirs Beach boardwalk, the Boardwalk Jazz Group (above photo) brings back the familiar tunes by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and other Jazz greats whose music once graced the Winnipesaukee Garden’s grand ballroom. The group plays at the middle of the Weirs Beach boardwalk on Sunday nights, beginning on the first Sunday in July, and ending on the last Sunday in August. The Sunday night concerts begin at 6pm and end at 9pm. Click here for a schedule.
Free Outdoor Music Concerts
Several nearby towns around Lake Winnipesaukee offer free, outdoor music concerts to summer visitors. You can see free outdoor concerts four nights in a row, from Wednesday night through Sunday night, if you plan carefully!
In Tuftonboro, the Summer Concert Series at the 19 Mile Bay Beach Pavilion takes place on Thursday nights from 6:30pm-8:30pm.
In downtown Laconia, the Belknap Mill’s Arts in the Park Summer Concert Series takes place on Friday nights from 6pm-8pm.
Also on Friday nights, in Center Harbor, at the Bicentennial Bandstand, there is a two-part concert series. The first part features the Center Harbor Town Band, the “Boston Pops of the Lakes Region”. In 2023, these concerts run on Friday nights, from July 7 – August 4, and start at 7pm. The second part of the 2023 series features other bands, and occur from 6pm-8pm on the three Fridays from August 11 – August 25.
In Wolfeboro, the Wolfeboro Community Bandstand Summer Concert Series takes place on Saturday nights from 7pm-9pm.
Also on Saturday nights from 7pm-9pm, in Alton Bay, the Alton Parks & Recreation Summer Concert Series takes place on the Land Bandstand. The Land Bandstand is located in Railroad Square Park, also known as Alton Bay Park, and the approximate location is 28 Mount Major Highway. (Not to be confused with the Water Bandstand located in the middle of Alton Bay.)
Then on Sunday nights, you can watch the jazz concerts on the Weirs Beach boardwalk from 6pm-9pm.
There are a couple more bandstands in the local area that offer free, outdoor summer music. They are the Hartwell Memorial Bandstand in Tilton; and right in Weirs Beach, the outdoor amphitheatre at the Weirs Community Park. This summer’s, 2023 schedule at the amphitheatre includes the Bel Airs on Saturday, July 29th, at 6:30pm; and Stan Jr. on Saturday, August 12th, at 6pm.
THE BOARDWALK JAZZ QUARTET
For nearly 30 years (since 1994), the Boardwalk Jazz Quartet has been playing jazz standards from the 1930′s through the 1970′s in Weirs Beach on Sundays in July and August. The group also plays arrangements of contemporary tunes and originals. The bandleader is soprano saxophonist Rob Ames. The group in the photo and video below is the 2012 version of the band, with Rob Ames on sax and vibes, Steve Warnick on keyboards, Mike Gruen on bass, and Dave Ellis on drums. Click here for a high-definition video.
HISTORY OF THE LAKES REGION CHORDSMEN
For over 60 years (from 1954 through 2019), in July & August, on Wednesday nights, you could hear the Lakes Region Chordsmen barbershoppers sing songs that would undoubtedly be familiar to those who attended concerts at the earlier Weirs Beach Music Halls. The Lake Region Chordsmen sang the old-time Barbershoppers favorites. The group consisted of about twenty singers, both old and young, and they sang their hearts out. Several members of the Chordsmen formed their own, classic Barbershopper quartets, and the quartets alternated segments of the concert with the larger group. Occasionally, larger groups of Barbershoppers from elsewhere in the state made a guest appearance, and then the combined groups sang together for an astounding wall of song.
While the Lakes Region Chordsmen have been gone for a few years, there is still a great Barbershoppers event being held annually. This year, the Meredith Bay Jamboree will take place from August 18-20, 2023. The highlight of the event is the Saturday evening, 8/19 concert, the “Great Gathering Show”, at 7pm at the Meredith Community Center. For more info, visit nedistrict.org/jamboree.
THE EARLY WEIRS BEACH MUSIC HALLS
Weirs Beach’s 1903-1924 Music Hall on Tower Street
(click here to see a rare, color photo of the interior of the Music Hall)
IRWIN’S WINNIPESAUKEE GARDENS
Weirs Beach’s 1925-1976 Irwin’s Winnipesaukee Gardens ballroom was famous for the great big bands that swung through town. Now an arcade at the Winnipesaukee Pier. Click here to enlarge the photos below and for several bonus photos.
• Benny Goodman • Nat King Cole • Guy Lombardo • Dean Hudson • Count Basie • Harry James • Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey • Glenn Miller • Sammy Kaye • Tony Brown • Glen Gray
“The Gardens had a glossy grand piano and big frame around the stage. On that frame were two mermaids on each side and King Neptune at the top” – Carole Gosselin
The 1940’s and 1950’s were the heyday of big band entertainment at the Gardens, when the place would be hopping nearly every night with elegantly clad dancers. From the mid 1960’s until the closure of the ballroom in 1976, the Gardens shifted its entertainment emphasis to rock and roll. While the few surviving famous big bands would still occasionally swing through town, the Gardens now rocked with a different beat. Some of the famous rock acts who performed there included:
Gary Pucket & The Union Gap • Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs • The Beach Boys • The Turtles • Eric Burdon & War • The Spectras
The last band to play at the Gardens before its conversion to an arcade was the big band of Harry James.