December 2011 home page


Tie a Bow On It!
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street

Tie a Bow on It | Standing O

For the thirty-third year in a row the City of Del Mar will receive a big, shiny, gift from guitarist Peter Sprague’s family and extensive group of musical friends. Their free Christmas concert, a tradition since 1978, will take place once again at the outdoor amphitheatre at L’Auberge on Christmas Eve Day (1pm to 4pm) and it’s a pretty good bet that most of the city’s residents, their children, grandchildren, and dogs, will attend.

Peter, an award winning guitarist and producer who has played with such stellar musicians as Chick Corea, Sergio Mendes, and Dianne Reeves, to name just a few, explained that the idea for the concerts started in 1976 when he set up in front of Carlos and Annie’s (now Americana) and played for tips. Two years later, having assembled “Dance of the Universe,” which included his brother Tripp, John Leftwich, Kevyn Lettau, and Kelly Jocoy, he was invited by Virginia Igonda, the owner of Ocean Song Gallery, to play a free concert on the sidewalk. “Virginia handled getting the city’s permission to play,” says Peter, “and if it rained we moved the concert inside.”
Flash forward thirty-plus years and Ocean Song is no more, but the original band members, plus dozens of others who have played with Peter over the years, still trek to the new venue at L’Auberge to be part of what has become, as Peter explains, “bigger in scope than the music itself. It’s a really beautiful tradition for my family, my friends, and now their families, and the community vibe is an important part of Christmas for us all.”

Bass player John Leftwich (“Lefty” to the band), now a music producer, assigns special significance to the corner of Camino Del Mar and 15th Street. “That’s where it all began,” he recalls, “with gigs at the Golden Rollin’ Belly (now Jimmy O’s) when we had to remain on the stage because we weren’t old enough to be in a bar. That corner is where we return to keep the connection, and it’s truly like going home for Christmas.”

After twenty-five years of living in Los Angeles and a successful singing career, the band’s original vocalist Kevyn Lettau was inspired to return to the area after singing in one of the Christmas concerts three years ago. “It was right then and there that I decided to move back here. I was so moved by the love and collective history between the band and the audience.”

Tripp Sprague, on horns, has played at every Christmas concert and the tradition is being carried forward by his daughter, Kate, who has been singing since the age of two. “Since she was only two, I think she was kind of unaware of the large audience, so I didn’t really need to talk her into it, and she’s been singing every year since.”
Tripp also found a way to express what many of the attendees consider the magic formula for the success of the concerts. “I think it’s a special time because people have started their vacation and they’ve finally given up on Christmas shopping, so they’re social, available, and in a good mood!”


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