Behind the scenes look at the Spreckels Organ.

The facade pipes of the Spreckels Organ have been removed to be refurbished.
The facade pipes of the Spreckels Organ have been removed to be refurbished.

Those who attended last Sunday’s free concert at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

According to Dale Sorenson, Co-Curator of the Spreckels Organ, this is the first time he’s seen San Diego’s historic outdoor organ without the facade pipes. These big pipes, which interfere with the sound from the organ’s many other interior pipes and instruments, have been removed temporarily. They are in the process of being gilded–not with gold leaf, which is very expensive and a long tedious process, but with mica. The renovation is in preparation for the Balboa Park Centennial celebration. A very special concert will be presented this New Year’s Eve, on the organ’s one hundredth birthday!

Without the facade pipes, last weekend’s concert was heard at full power! Among the majestic pieces played by San Diego Civic Organist Dr. Carol Williams were Toccata, Symphonie V by Charles-Marie Widor, Prelude in B minor, BWV 544 by J. S. Bach, and Te Deum by Charles Tournemire.

Here are some behind the scenes photos of the organ, from outside and from within!

The facade's temporary removal allows a very rare look at the interior pipes.
The facade’s temporary removal allows a very rare look at the interior pipes.
Mechanical instruments now visible include cymbals, gong and snare drum.
Mechanical instruments now visible include cymbals, gong and snare drum.
Civic Organist Dr. Carol Williams before once-in-a-lifetime concert with booming sound!
Civic Organist Dr. Carol Williams before once-in-a-lifetime concert with booming sound!
People line up near gift shop to see and hear organ up close during the concert!
People line up near gift shop to see and hear organ up close during the concert!
Entering the organ pavilion building where offices, displays and the instrument reside.
Entering the organ pavilion building where offices, displays and the instrument reside.
A hallway contains dozens of historical photos of concerts, organists and Balboa Park.
A hallway contains dozens of historical photos of concerts, organists and Balboa Park.
Visitors can often go inside after the free 2 o'clock Sunday concerts.
Visitors can often go inside after the free 2 o’clock Sunday concerts.
Heading up west stairs to see and hear the pipes and complex organ workings.
Heading up west stairs to see and hear the pipes and complex organ workings.
Looking behind where facade pipes are usually located.
Looking behind where the facade pipes are usually located.
Looking up we see swell shutters and a big bass drum!
Looking up we see swell shutters and a big bass drum!
Turning to the right we find even more ranks of pipes.
Turning to the right we find even more ranks of pipes.
Cluster of long pipes seen from east side of organ.
Cluster of long and short pipes seen from east side of organ.
Banners and displays in stairwell on east side of building.
Banners and informative exhibits in stairwell on east side of building.
Visitor checks out display inside organ pavilion building.
Visitor checks out display inside organ pavilion building.
Opera star sings at crowded pavilion memorial for President Harding in 1923.
Opera star sings at crowded pavilion during memorial service for President Harding in 1923.
Mice near pipes comment that all hell breaks loose on Sunday!
Mice near pipes comment that all hell breaks loose on Sunday!
Albert Einstein in front of Spreckels Organ in 1930.
Albert Einstein in front of Spreckels Organ in 1930.
1915 photo of Spreckels on Electriquette wicker cart among pigeons in Balboa Park.
1915 photo of John D. Spreckels on Electriquette wicker cart among pigeons in Balboa Park.
Demonstration of how air pressure mechanically affects the pipe organ's action.
Demonstration of how air pressure affects the pipe organ’s action.
2005 bust of John D. Spreckels by sculptor Claudio D’Agostino.
2005 bust of John D. Spreckels by sculptor Claudio D’Agostino.
1915 San Diego Union newspaper announces America's First Out-Of-Door Organ.
1915 San Diego Union newspaper announces America’s First Out-Of-Door Organ.
Looking out onto the stage from inside.
Looking out onto the stage from inside.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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