SOLANA BEACH — The 25th Anniversary of the Solana Beach Singalong will be celebrated with fanfare at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 15 at the Fletcher Cove Community Center, 133 Pacific Ave.
Light refreshments will be served, with dessert compliments of California Pizza Kitchen.
The community singalong was organized in 1987 by psychiatrist, Dr. Ed Siegel.
“When the city became incorporated there was a piano in the community center and I thought it would be a great way to give people a sense of community,” he said.
Siegel remembers the fledgling group getting a boost when The Citizen published a letter on Aug. 12, 1987 by Jane Pogeler, chairman of the Solana Beach Parks and Recreation Committee:
“Something unusual happened on August 6. I wish I could describe it so you’d have a real sense of what went on. I’m sure Dr. Ed Siegel must have a theory to explain what happened. When he proposed that the Solana Beach Parks & Recreation Committee sponsor these singalongs, he predicted that by singing together, we would achieve some special sense of community. He was right. Thanks, Ed. Let’s do it again, same time, same place.”
In the early days, Siegel said the group had to make do with an old, upright piano which the city eventually replaced with a new one.
“Since then we’ve had people of all ages from 15 months to 100,” he explained. “People even bring their dogs.”
Over the years the group updated its songbook to include spirituals and World War I era songs, show tunes, Disney favorites and hits by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Elvis, the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson and Simon and Garfunkel. They also pay tribute to various cultures from the Jewish to the British, Spanish, Brazilians and Koreans.
“The biggest turnouts are for our patriotic singalongs, the Thursday before July 4th,” he said. “Also, the first Thursday before Christmas. Sometimes there’s standing room only.”
Siegel laments the regulars who have passed away.
“Henry Tilker was the flag bearer when we sang patriot songs,” he recalled. “He was so proud, and it still thrilled him when he was 100.
“When Carl Stroud sang Old Man River, he would gaze up and be in heaven.”
On Feb. 22, 2006, the city of Solana Beach adopted the city’s official song, “Solana Beach, Our City Proud,” a collaboration between Siegel and lyricist Lynn Salsberg.
Margaret Schlesinger, was mayor in 1987 when the singalong was born.
“The idea of a city that sings was part of our oath of office to promote the health and welfare of the community,” she recalled. “We provided a piano and a place and it’s continued with a faithful core group. Over the years, without fail, Ed has been there week after week.
“It’s interesting, Canadians in winter, and Arizonans in summer, show up, too. It’s really been a good thing.”
Melvyn Green is a regular who has recruited new members for the singalong.
“Ed is a very giving person who welcomes everyone to join the singing group even if you just mouth the words,” he said. “It is very special to have this available once a week, and a joy to participate in it.”
Although Siegel is proud of the fact that the singalong is the longest ongoing event in Solana Beach history, he still harbors one more goal.
“I have a Johnny Appleseed dream to have more people share in the music without being self-conscious,” he explained. “When I grew up everybody sang. Today, when I mention the singalong the first thing people say is that they can’t sing.”
Siegel is perplexed because he says children are uninhibited when they are young, singing nursery rhymes openly and freely.
“Somewhere along the way they must have been teased because they stop,” he said. “It’s a national tragedy. When I travel to other countries everybody loves to sing.
“Group singing represents a continuum of how our earliest ancestors shared a sense of community that predates language as we know it. Furthermore, it involves nearly the entire brain, both emotional and the thinking brain. And best of all, it’s fun and feels good.”