August 7, 2018

The crowd rests on lawn chairs and benches as The Townsend Military Band performs at the weekly Thursday night summer band concert on the town common. Below: Playing the flute with the band is David Deifik of Nashua. SUN photos/JOHN LOVE Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

What better way to indulge in a summer night than on a lawn chair before the setting sun, nearby friends, food and -- of course -- the flow of live music.

Event coordinators in Townsend, Dunstable, Shirley and Pepperell have done their part to make sure this option is available to residents throughout the summer months, and that the sound of music will be around during the summers to come.

Betty Mae Tenney is in the midst of her 50th summer season serving as manager of the Townsend Military Band, which will play from 7:30-9:30 p.m. each Thursday until Aug. 9 at the Townsend Common.

Tenney has been playing clarinet in the band for even longer (since 1966) and has no plans to perform her swan song.

“Before I was in the band, I literally cried if the concert was called off because of the rain when I was a child,” Tenney said.

“I just lived Thursday to Thursday, going to the band concert to listen to the music and meet with friends.”

“I was born in ’47 and I live right near the Townsend Common, so I’ve never known anything from the time I’ve been a child other than there always being a band on Thursday night,” she added.

The band’s 30-plus members are from more than a dozen communities and of various ages.

The band includes music educators, high-school band members, and those just plain interested in playing music.

“We play marches, overtures, music from various musicals, Broadway shows,” Tenney said. “It’s a variety. We try to keep people of all ages interested.”

The town-funded concerts also include lawn parties, hosted by local organizations, which feature food, children’s activities and more.

Though Tenney has served as manager for half a century, that’s only a portion of the time the band’s been around.

“We have written history of the band back to 1838, with roots back to 1817,” Tenney said. “It was formed initially to provide music for people training to be in the military.”

The summer concert series available in Dunstable and Pepperell haven’t been around quite as long, but they’re making their mark on the local community.

Shirley holds its concert series on Friday nights, this year through Aug. 24.

In Dunstable, the music series started when resident Paul Debreceni approached his children’s librarian Sue Tully, at the Dunstable Public Library.

He asked Tully -- known for her involvement in the community: “Why isn’t music being played at the town band stand?”

“She says to me, ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to ask that question,’” Debreceni said. “And that’s how it all started, believe it or not.”

Now, 17 years later, the summer concert series in Dunstable has no signs of quieting.

Kept alive through grants, and donations from area businesses and community members, the music series features a new band each Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. until Aug. 8 at the Town Common.

“We look for the local bands, but sometimes they travel to come here,” Debreceni said.

Aside from music, there’s food and ice cream, the occasional children’s event, and the popular Vehicle Night, allowing attendees to check out classic cars on site.

Pepperell Business Association, which runs the town’s Summer Concert Series, is celebrating its 20th season this summer, according to PBA President Mark Vasapolli.

The concerts run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday until Aug. 14, on the PBA Bandstand, located on the Pepperell Town Field.

The event is funded by local businesses, and various community sponsors.

The PBA invites a variety of music genres, from rock -- including a Beatles cover band, recently -- to concert orchestras.

“Not only is it free for the local community, the concert offers free ice cream,” Vasapolli added. “So, basically, it’s like an ice-cream social for the community.”

A representatives of a Pepperell nonprofit comes to the concert to scoop the ice cream, providing an opportunity to raise the community’s understanding of the group.

That nonprofit also receives a $200 donation from the PBA for their scooping efforts.

“The concert series is all about people coming together,” Vasapolli said. “We started 20 years ago and we’re hoping 20 years from now we look back and we’re still going.”

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis

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