Unique duo to perform popular hits from the 1930s-1950s at ‘Stardust Memories’ event

By Diane Y. Welch

On Thursday, July 3, from noon - 1 p.m., St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Del Mar is the venue for a unique musical experience that crosses culture and generations. The “Stardust Memories” show is a one-time event featuring pianist Dr. Ed Siegel of Solana Beach and vocalist Joohoe “Peppy” Koo of Seoul, Korea.

The two will perform a medley of songs that also cross genres and eras, and appeals to a broad audience. The hour-long repertoire includes popular hits from the 1930s through the 1950s; Broadway show hits; covers from Elvis, The Beatles, and Billy Joel; popular songs from film; and romantic love songs. Siegel will also play some solo classical pieces that include Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Bach’s “Aire on a G String”, and more.

Sponsored by the church and by the Del Mar-Solana Beach Rotary Club, the event is free but donations of any amount are welcome and will be split equally to benefit both organizations, said Siegel, who conceived and planned the event. “People may bring along a bagged lunch and free parking will be available in the church lot,” he added.

Koo was in La Jolla at UC San Diego studying English when the two met eight years ago. “I was good friends with one of his teachers at that time and we would often have potluck dinners with his students at my house. Joohoe came in and I could see he was outgoing and friendly,” recalled Siegel. “I said, ‘I hear you can sing, how about coming here to the piano and doing a few tunes?’”

They began with hits by Billy Joel, and then “My Way”, and “New York, New York.” Siegel was stunned by his vocal ability. “I said to him – and I didn’t really know him as we had just met – ‘You are not leaving town until we can do a CD together,’” Siegel said. “We have a musical connection that I have never experienced with any other person in my life.”

This connection is more remarkable given their backgrounds and cultural differences. Siegel, a psychiatrist, is 74; Koo, a banker who sell derivatives to institutional buyers, is 34. But they share common interests. Both travel extensively and like to entertain, and both are amateur musicians with an intuitive skill level.

Siegel does not read music but has a repertoire of over 1,000 tunes that he plays from memory; Koo has perfect pitch, easily harmonizes tunes and memorizes lyrics and sings with a voice that is a cross between “Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole,” according to Siegel. Neither has had formal musical training.

The two rehearsed over a couple of weekends in the summer of 2005, then booked six hours of recording studio time when they cut 50 professional-level songs on a CD. “We couldn’t believe how well it came out,” Siegel remarked.

Each year they meet either in Korea or the U.S. and perform together. Past venues include Fort Collins and Estes Park, Colo., and performances in Seoul and Hong Kong.

The “Stardust Memories” mid-day performance will be followed by the Solana Beach Patriotic July Fourth Community Sing-a-Long on Thursday evening at Fletcher Cove Community Center at 7:30 p.m. when Koo and Siegel will perform some of their repertoire. Both events are family friendly and free to attend.