For performers like Sue Palmer, being on stage is “life-affirming”. But with the COVID-19 pandemic canceling concerts for the past two years, she hasn’t had a chance to lead her boogie-woogie band in front of a crowd.
Palmer and his Motel Swing Orchestra are among the artists who will perform as part of the return of the summer Concerts by the Sea series at Scripps Park in La Jolla.
The concerts, formerly hosted by the La Jolla City Council and Rotary Club of La Jolla, will now be hosted by the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla and will be known as the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla Concerts by the Sea. The Kiwanis club oversees several major public events, including the La Jolla Half Marathon, the Junior Olympics, and the Pancake Breakfast.
Sue Palmer and her Motel Swing Orchestra will take the stage on July 31 as part of the four-Sunday concert series in July and August.
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“We wanted to start with four concerts, at least for the first year,” said event organizer Howard Zatkin, who agreed to lead the effort during his retirement years.
“I’ve lived in La Jolla since the late ’60s and music is a love of mine,” Zatkin said. “I went to the concerts and loved them. What better Sunday afternoon to go out to The Cove and listen to some music? It was amazing to me how many people came and danced. It was a real community event. La Jolla has so few events…and I hate to see some of those traditions disappear when so many people enjoy them.
Although he has no experience coordinating concerts, Zatkin said he has contacted popular artists from past concerts, who in turn have recommended sound technicians and offered advice on city permits. . Some of the artists even agreed to play at a reduced rate.
“They wanted the concerts to come back as much as the audience,” Zatkin said.
The concerts were suspended after 33 years when the board announced at the end of the 2016 season that it would be the last unless a “substantial source of long-term funding” came forward to fund the shows.
At the time, board chair Shirleymae Davis said: “It made me sick to [my] heart and I cried about it, but it doesn’t bring in any money, unfortunately. She cited increases in city permit costs and decreases in sponsorships and donations.
Shortly after, it was announced that proceeds from La Jolla Cove Swim would provide some of the money to bring the concerts back. The swim – a reimagining of the La Jolla Rough Water Swim, one of the world’s best-known open water swim races – took place in the fall of 2019 and raised $20,000 to fund the first round of gigs. The La Jolla Kiwanis Club oversees both the La Jolla Cove bath and the seaside concerts.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on gatherings in full effect, concerts did not take place in the summer of 2020. “We had all the artists lined up, posted bonds, but COVID was still going on,” said Kiwanian Suzanne Weiner. “But the artists agreed to do it in 2021. … That was the idea, but in the summer of 2021 the Delta variant [was spreading], so we postponed it. And bless their hearts, our performers said they will in 2022.”
“Scripps Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world to perform,” said Palmer, who has appeared on Concerts by the Sea about 10 times. “It’s like the French Riviera.”
At summer concerts, she added, “the crowd is happy and enthusiastic, the sun is out, there are swing dancers and everyone is moving. … It was strange not to play. We had to go without live music for at least a year… and people were struggling to have music in their lives. We finally have the opportunity to have concerts.
Those who have seen her can expect something new at her show this year, Palmer said.
“We have a new singer, and with her came a whole new repertoire of songs,” she said. “We can’t wait to show what we can all do together. We’ve been playing together for 20 years and coming back for any type of performance gives meaning to our lives.
Ron Jones, who hosted the concerts for 20 years, applauded the Kiwanis club for its efforts but said rising city fees could complicate the effort.
“I totally support [the concerts’] to return to. Every time I make a public appearance people ask me if and when they’re coming back, and people get sad when I tell them I don’t know,” he said. “It was a wonderful community event that brought people to the front porch of La Jolla. I salute the club for trying to make this happen.
More information, including volunteer opportunities, will be posted on kiwanisclublajolla.org.
All concerts begin at 3:30 p.m. at Scripps Park in La Jolla.
July 17: Maximum strength
July 24: Powerful Untouchables
July 31 : Sue Palmer and her motel swing orchestra
August 7: Heroes ◆