SOLANA BEACH — It’s been said that history has a way of repeating itself. For a local example of that adage, one need look no further than the Solana Beach singalong, the city’s oldest ongoing community event.
On Aug. 6, 1987, about 30 people, including the city’s first mayor, gathered at Fletcher Cove Community Center for the inaugural concert. Almost exactly 23 years later, on Aug. 12, 2010, about 30 people, including the city’s first mayor, gathered for the group’s final singalong, at least for now, at Fletcher Cove Community Center.
Crooners young and old have met at the site every Thursday since the summer of ‘87, except when Ed Siegel, the event founder, was on vacation. The facility is about to undergo a massive renovation, so songsters must find a new home, at least until the project is complete a year or so from now.
“We’ve been complaining about this building for so long, and now I’m going to miss it,” Siegel said.
“I got the idea from my childhood,” he said. Siegel grew up in Colorado and Florida, where singalongs were common. He settled in Solana Beach in the late 1970s and started the event to promote community spirit one year after the city was incorporated with support from the newly formed City Council.
In the early days, people would shout requests. Siegel provided music on the piano, an instrument he taught himself to play by ear. In fact, Siegel said he still can’t read music.
After about 15 years, Siegel changed the rules. “I chose what to play unless someone had a request,” he said. “Sometimes I didn’t feel like playing it. But if they paid one dollar, suddenly I felt like playing it. We even had a piggy bank.”
Through the years Siegel collected $547, which he plans to use for a new piano cover. Any leftover funds likely will be donated to the renovation project, he said.
Siegel has also amassed quite a collection of song books, including some of the originals used 23 years ago. He planned to auction them off after the recent singalong but ran out of time.
“About six tattered old books were snapped up quickly,” he said. “One buyer wanted a signed edition.” Siegel raised about $20, which will be added to the piggy bank.
The final performance in the old community center kicked off with “Solana Beach, Our City Proud,” followed by “God Bless America,” a request from City Councilman Joe Kellejian, and “Ring of Fire,” requested by Margaret Schlesinger, the city’s first mayor.
Throughout the evening, songsters chose from a list of about 70 historical favorites Siegel selected from the current two-volume song book, which features more than 700 tunes.
The group will continue to meet on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. once Siegel finds a temporary site. Possible locations include Skyline Elementary School, Earl Warren Middle School, the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club and Solana Beach Presbyterian Church.
To receive electronic updates on the singalongs, e-mail Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynn Salsberg, who co-wrote the city song, is one resident who will most certainly follow the group wherever it goes. She and her husband discovered the singalong about 22 years ago while taking an evening walk and have attended ever since.
“It’s been pretty special,” she said. “I call it happiness on Thursday.”