The Golden Age: Music and Les Lieber

On a beautiful Monday afternoon,  Leslie Lieber and his wife, Edith, were lounging in their breezy front porch. We talked about everything from the annual Chill Out concert, to jazz, as well as Fire Island.
The annual Chill Out concert has happened ever since Les passed by the baseball field adjacent to the Woodhull School and saw a man playing violin by himself. The next week another musician had joined him, this time a guitar player. Les mused, “Music blossomed on that street that was formerly only ball playing and sports.”
“It started spontaneously, completely unorganized, no publicity,” Edie added, “Little by little it developed that it should be organized. It turned out to be a wonderful thing where musicians were invited.”
Over time, the Chill Out concert has grown to become a well-known event across the island. The name of the concert was coined one year by Johnny Parham. Edie noted, “It was the slang the kids were using.” Les joked, “I never knew what that meant.”
The Chill Out concert has had many iterations and evolutions as the summer seasons have gone on. The concert came to be held at the ballfield every year. Concert goers would bring picnic dinners to the event. In the event of rain, the concert would be held at the Free Union Church on the midway.
Eventually the concert moved into the community house in Ocean Beach after one fateful Friday evening when the mayor invited everyone to escape the rain. Now the concert is held in the community house every year, and there are always two seats reserved at the very front for Mrs. Lieber and her
best friend of 50 plus years, Mrs. Edith Mendelsohn.
Mostly their daughter-in-law, Sue Panzer, oversees organization of the event. “Sue is so efficient,” Edie raved. “She does everything perfectly.”
In fact, Sue became acquainted with their youngest son, David, through the Chill Outs, and they wed last year.
Perhaps the New York City equivalent of the Chill Out concert, Les’ other musical pursuit, Jazz at Noon, ended as Les turned 100 years old in 2012. For years it served as a place for musicians to gather and play together every Friday, oftentimes featuring a guest star. Edie noted, “At some point all
of the top jazz musicians stopped by.”
The event has been held at numerous locations since it started in 1965, but its last location was the National Arts Club. Edie reminisced, “He used to go up and down the streets of New York City asking if places were interested in hosting it, asking if they had a piano.”
On the topic of jazz, Les said, “I don’t mind admitting it’s good when it’s good. I don’t know what kind of jazz they think they’re playing but it’s not what we used to play.”
As for Fire Island and the legacy of the Liebers, they first came to the island in 1951 and ended their tenure as renters with the purchase of their house in 1965. The Liebers own the empty lot next door as well, an essential as far as Les is concerned, “to preserve our nice, quiet vacation spot.”
Les mused, “It changes the way anything changes when it goes from a little-known place some of your friends don’t even know about, when you’re on the ground floor.” Edie added, “We were all barefoot back then.”
The Chill Out takes place on Friday evening, July 14, from 6-9 p.m. at the Ocean Beach Community House.
This event is sponsored by the Ocean Beach Association.