American Songbook fans continue to flock to the seaside site in summer
True to its original purpose when built on the Nantasket Beach waterfront in the late 19th century, the Bernie King Pavilion continues to offer seasonal concerts and dance events to the delight of the music lovers who attend.
This 10,800-square-foot open-air venue, located on state Department of Conservation and Recreation Department property, has been renovated over the years and continues to draw a crowd on summer Sundays.
The first well-attended concert of the summer featured Don Altobello’s renowned quintet on July 4. Live music, most of it from the American Songbook, be offered through Labor Day weekend, with the public welcome to attend these free “Music by the Sea at Nantasket” events. The concerts, which run from 2-4 p.m., take place rain or shine unless there is a severe storm.
Hingham resident Lou Altieri and Gina Pag of Braintree are big fans of the concert series and have organized it for the past couple of years.
“Music brings everyone together,” Pag said. “It’s a time to be kind to one another. You can’t be dancing when you’re angry at someone.”
While there was some precipitation during the Fourth of July concert, the music went on because the pavilion has a covering. “Some of the instruments and the dance floor started to get wet, so we all just moved into a better position to be out of the rain,” Altieri said.
There are usually about 40 enthusiastic guests in attendance from Hull and neighboring towns, with the music bringing many of them to their feet to dance the foxtrot or cha-cha or to join in with the swing or line dancing. Others prefer to sit back and just listen to the music while enjoying spectacular views of the beach and ocean. Some attending the concerts sit on the benches inside the pavilion, while others bring their own comfortable chairs.
There was an especially large crowd (about 100 people) at the July 11 “Ray Cavicchio on Cavachord [an accordion] and Therese on Drums” concert.
While there are regulars who return week after week, some of the spectators are beachgoers who are captivated by the sound of the music as they walk by the pavilion and decide to listen in for a while. Others hear about the concerts by word of mouth or on social media. “The musical community knows where to look for these kinds of events,” Altieri said.
He first became familiar with the concert series on Labor Day 2018. “I was walking around the area when I heard music playing,” he recalled. He entered the pavilion and happened to ask Pag, who was sitting close by and whom he didn’t know at the time, how long the concerts had been going on (for about 50 years).
Over the course of the following year leading up to the 2019 concert series, Altieri got to know Pag at the Weymouth Senior Center, where she sings with a band.” Gina and I learned that the first concert for 2019 was scheduled for Memorial Day and that this would be the last time the town of Hull [would be involved],” he remembered.
The concert series started many years ago under the guidance of the Nantasket Beach Merchants Association and was privately organized by that group until several years ago, when the association ceased to exist. At that time, the town stepped into the role of the association to continue the tradition, according to Town Manager Philip Lemnios.
“However, due to changes in various state laws, it is no longer appropriate for town officials to be seeking donations from businesses that may have regular interactions with the town,” Lemnios noted.
Another key consideration is the concerts’ location; they take place on DCR, not town-owned, property, which limits the town’s role.
Altieri and Pag both wanted to see the concerts continue in 2019 and beyond and stepped up to help make that happen. Altieri applied for the necessary permits from the DCR, which oversees the pavilion, and asked local businesses in Hull and surrounding communities for donations.
With the support and cooperation of various local and state agencies, the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce, donations by local merchants and music lovers, residents of Hull, as well as musicians volunteering their time and talent, the 2019 concert series was a success, according to Altieri.
Donations remain a major factor keeping the concerts going. Pag expressed appreciation for the lifeguard who recently made a donation and for several contributions from members of the Hull Fire Department, among others. And Lemnios noted that the DCR’s Nantasket Beach Trust Fund could be a source of potential funding for the concerts.
Altieri and Pag work together to organize the events. He obtains the necessary permits while she books the majority of the performers. “I leave the lining up of musicians to Gina for the most part,” he said. “She’s a female vocalist and occasionally joins in with some of the groups as a guest performer.”
While admission is free, donations are collected from those wishing to contribute to fund the bands, at a cost of about $5,000 a year. “We’re still seeking donations for this year’s concerts,” Altieri said. “I’m getting a little concerned.” Fortunately, there are some leftover funds from the 2019 series to start off the new season in a strong position financially.
(Massachusetts residents age 62 and over can request a parking pass for $10 at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/get-a-senior-parking-pass. Individuals displaying a handicapped parking permit can park for free.)
The events benefit not only music lovers but potentially the local business community as well. “Hopefully, those who attend enjoy dinner at a Hull restaurant or buy items from other businesses while in town,” he said.
Pag, Altieri, and Hull resident Tony Fazio, the only volunteers at this time, say they could use some help in planning and running the events. Fazio does the videography and assists with the Facebook page that shares information about the series. To volunteer to help with the concert series planning, contact Altieri at email@example.com. Volunteers of all ages are welcome.
Donations to “Music by the Sea at Nantasket” can be mailed in care of Lou Altieri, 302 Linden Ponds Way, MG508, Hingham, MA 02043 or to Gina Pag at The Snippery Hair Studio, 428 Washington St., Braintree, MA 02184.