It was a hot August night when legendary Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval stopped between his numbers to speak to the audience at the Great Waters Music Festival on Lake Winnipesaukee. “I wish I could take you people with me around the world,” he said joyfully. “You are very smart. You know good music.” The crowd roared back, apparently ready to take the trip.
It wasn’t the case of a canny musician playing to his audience. Sandoval — who is widely considered the most accomplished Cuban jazz and classical musician in the world — was simply telling the truth: The Great Waters Music Festival attracts some of the most intelligent music fans in the region because it brings some of the best musicians in the world to New Hampshire — Dave Brubeck, Richie Havens, Wynton Marsalis, Sandy Duncan and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, to name just a few.
This year’s shows will feature Branford Marsalis, Manhattan Transfer, Linda Eder, the Ramsey Lewis Trio and the New Black Eagle Jazz Band. Not to mention the three-day Fifth Annual Folk Festival at the end the month with Judy Collins, Richie Havens and others.
Attending a Great Waters show begins long before the music starts. That’s because the summer concert series is based in Wolfeboro, the epitome of an American resort town: a great mixture of cozy coffee shops and exquisite restaurants, funky T-shirt shops and wonderful jewelry stores. In the morning you see fishermen dipping a line into the water off the Main Street bridge. In the afternoon you’ll find families slouching by the docks or on the beach, eating ice cream and fried food. And the evenings bring out the colorful combination of rousing tourists and seasonal residents.
Great Waters’ concerts are held on the campus of Brewster Academy, which is a traditional New England prep school. So you park your car, then walk around the campus to breathe in the quiet air: the classic old buildings, the buzz-cut green grass, the smell of the water …
If you’re smart, you’ll have a ticket to the VIP cocktail reception, which is held before the concert in the Pinckney Boathouse. It’s one of the few modern buildings on campus and once inside you’ll have the sense of being on a large old wooden schooner, while enjoying the delicious hors d’oeuvres and comfortable furnishings. (You can purchase a gourmet picnic meal that features a premium bottle of wine.)
Glowing on a small bluff on moist green grass just yards away from Wolfeboro Bay stands the great white party tent, specially designed for Great Waters with a superior light and sound system. It can seat up to 950 people with no poles to obscure views of the large stage. As the show starts, dusk is just beginning to fall. The lake water still reflects the blue sky. A cool breeze blows in as darkness grows and you can catch the lights of boats drifting by, hoping to sample the experience of an exquisite night of great live music.
This year, the Great Waters Music Festival kicks off July 15 with the 12th annual Masterworks Concert, which features a 100-voice chorus and a 45-piece orchestra.
For more information, visit www.greatwaters.org, or call (603) 569-7710. NH
Ray Carbone has lived in the Lakes Region for more than 12 years, working as a writer and editor. He is currently a staff writer for the Laconia Daily Sun.