It's become a Christmas Eve tradition: Peter Sprague's annual free concert at 15th Street in Ould Del Mar, a place near and dear to my heart because it was my first impression of California when I came here in 1963. Every year since Peter and his brother Tripp were wee little lads, growing up in this paradise, they set up their music stands, opened their guitar cases and played music for the assembled holiday throngs for nickels, dimes and quarters on the sidewalk in front of the Earth Song book store. Now they have moved to the outdoor amphitheatre near the Inn l'Auberge just across the way. This concert is a family and friends affair with father Hall Sprague on bongos, little Kate Sprague (Tripp's daughter) and Kylie Sprague (Peter's daughter) singing. The highlight of the afternoon concert was the Benedetti girls, Regina and Julia, whose guitar playing father, Fred, a full time music professor at Grossmont College, is equally at home with jazz or classical. They can be regularly heard at the Aviara resort in Carlsbad.
The band included Gunner Biggs, bass; Tripp Sprague, saxophone and flute; Dylan Savage, drums. Singers Coral Macfarland-Thuett, Allison Tucker and Lisa Hightower lit up the proceedings. A harp and mandolin duo, the Wrong Trousers, added to the festivities. Mark Lessman sat in on saxophone and a blues harmonica playing architect got everyone jumping. There was a lot of samba and Brazilian music which my significant other, Judy, really loves. She is becoming a huge fan of Peter's. This music is really accessible and infectious, a blessed alternative to pop/rock, rap or whatever other stuff is floating over the airwaves these days. It's a treat to hear singing in languages other than English and the vibes conjured up from Brazilian and other cultures. One of my favorite singers, Karrin Allyson has an album, "From Paris to Rio," on which she sings in Portuguese and French. It would be good to hear more of the French vibe as in Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose" or "Ne Me Quitte Pas." If Coral sang these songs with half as much conviction as she conveys in the Latin tinged numbers, it would be sensational! Harmonica and accordion sometimes add a distinctly different cultural ambiance - an off the beaten track vibe - as on the album "Chez Toots" by Toots Thielemans.
Peter deserves a lot of credit not only for adding greatly to the cultural edification of San Diego County but also for mentoring and encouraging younger (and older) musicians. At his Spragueland production studio, he produces CD albums for a lot of these folks and in general has built up a network of relationships that has extended from family out into the community. This is truly peace on earth, goodwill towards men (and women). If only the larger world would emulate what Peter and the other musicians have accomplished in microcosm, the world would be more representative of the wishes of the dude whose birthday we celebrate this time of year! Peter has added a lot more to the community as a local musician than many more famous musicians that live here but aren't as active and involved except for an occasional concert. Peter is always searching for new sonic avenues and his music is both high quality and eminently approachable. A musician needs to be versatile these days playing in a variety of musical situations and with a variety of different groups. Peter has created a multi-faceted array of sonic situations that should encompass the vast majority of musical palates. On this particular sunny California Christmas Eve, the audience couldn't get enough of the warm vibes emanating from this simpatico group.
When I first arrived in California, it was a rainy, dark September evening. I had driven cross country from Atlanta just having finished eight straight quarters at Georgia Tech. I was on my way to Palo Alto where I was in for three more quarters at Stanford before my first summer break. I was trying to find downtown San Diego; I thought surely a major street like El Cajon Blvd would take me to it, but after driving back and forth, never actually finding San Diego, I pulled over in North Park and slept in my car. The next day I actually looked at a map and turned north from I-8 onto Highway 101. (There was no I-5, no I-15, no I-805 in those days.) When I got to Del Mar, the sun came out. I pulled over into the gas station on the corner of 15th Street where the flower shop is today, went into the rest room and cleaned up. Then I headed for the coffee shop next door (where Bank of America is now). Before I went in to have breakfast, I looked out over the old tudor Shakepearian inn on the northwest corner of 15th Street (that has been replaced by the Inn l'Auberge) toward the blue Pacific. I took a deep breath of fresh air, felt the sunshine and rejoiced in my first impression of California. Little did I know at the time that I would be living here a few blocks up 15th Street a few years later in a little shack I rented for $40. a month. Today Del Mar is strictly a high rent district but in those days it was still a funky little town.