The triumphant return of the Spreckels Organ!

The amazing Spreckels Organ, largest outdoor musical instrument in the world and the joyful lungs of Balboa Park, made its triumphant return today!

After six weeks of silence because of a broken motor on the main blower, the Spreckels Organ is once again producing fantastic music, with a little help from San Diego’s world-famous Civic Organist, Raúl Prieto Ramírez!

Raul began today’s concert with Johann Sebastian Bach’s powerful Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The talented San Diego Children’s Choir then took the stage to perform a variety of classical songs, including Franz Schubert’s moving Ave Maria.

To honor Veterans Day, Raul concluded the program by playing three John Philip Sousa compositions: Semper Fidelis, In Memoriam, and Stars and Stripes Forever.

In a troubled world where the flag often flies at half-staff, this Sunday we were reminded that human good can prevail. With a little dedication any broken instrument in this world–even the mighty Spreckels Organ–can be repaired.

I saw many smiles in the sunshine.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A stirring preview of World War I opera All Is Calm.

Dr. Nicolas Reveles of San Diego Opera provides an overview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Dr. Nicolas Reveles of San Diego Opera provides an overview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Yesterday I sat on a folding chair inside the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park blinking my eyes. Several voices singing divinely about our essential humanity had nearly brought me to tears.

I’d just enjoyed a short but stirring preview of San Diego Opera’s upcoming production of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. This unique chamber opera is a mixture of the spoken word and male singing unaccompanied by instruments.

Together voices relive a profound moment during the horrific trench warfare of World War I, when “soldiers from France, England, and Germany ventured into no-man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Soldiers exchanged food and gifts, swapped prisoners and performed burials, and played football and sang Christmas carols.”

The inspirational opera All is Calm contains no original music. It is composed entirely from music that was popular just before the onset of World War I, hymns and timeless Christmas carols. The actual letters of common soldiers and orders from officers are among the historical texts that are interwoven with song. Young soldiers from both sides, manning hellish trenches that were infested with rats and lice, made even more miserable with winter rain and freezing snow, are moved to walk out into the field of fire, risking their lives, to share a moment of common humanity.

The opera will be staged in early December in downtown’s Balboa Theatre, a smaller and more intimate setting than the San Diego Civic Theatre, where San Diego Opera usually performs. There is some singing in French and German, but the opera is primarily in English. Silent Night is sung in different languages by many voices, which eventually combine and rise together as one. Music moves the human heart like nothing else can.

The brief preview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 was simply amazing.

It gave me goosebumps.

These smiling ladies welcomed me to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, where a few parts of the opera All Is Calm were previewed.
These smiling ladies welcomed me to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, where parts of the opera All Is Calm were previewed.
Visitors to the Veterans Museum look at a large mural on one wall before the program begins.
Visitors to the Veterans Museum look at a large mural on one wall before the program begins.
One exhibit in the Veterans Museum includes artifacts and ephemera from the First World War. A gas mask speaks of trench warfare's horrors.
One exhibit in the Veterans Museum includes artifacts and ephemera from the First World War. A gas mask speaks of trench warfare’s horrors.
Director of All Is Calm, Juan Carlos Acosta, tells the audience about the making of this unique chamber opera.
Director of All Is Calm, Juan Carlos Acosta, tells the audience about the making of this very unique chamber opera.
Historical image of a young man who left home and went off to war in the early 20th century.
Historical image of a young man who left home and went off to war in the early 20th century.
Juan Carlos Acosta, Timothy Simpson and Walter Dumelle sing together in a short but stirring preview of All Is Calm.
Juan Carlos Acosta, Timothy Simpson and Walter Dumelle sing together in a short but stirring preview of All Is Calm.
All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 is an inspiring opera that reminds one and all of our essential humanity. It will touch your heart deeply.
All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 is an inspiring opera that reminds one and all of our essential humanity. Its music touches the heart.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

If you’d like to read a few stories about life, click Short Stories by Richard.

An abundance of life in Balboa Park.

What an amazing day.

This afternoon I headed to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park to enjoy San Diego Opera’s preview of their upcoming production All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. The deep humanity of the music raised goosebumps. I’ll be blogging about that shortly.

I then rode the tram into the heart of Balboa Park, with no particular destination in mind. In the hour of remaining daylight I snapped random photographs of whatever happened to grab my fancy.

When I got home, I was struck by how the photos contain a joyful abundance of life.

Balboa Park is always so alive.

Do you love Balboa Park? Check out my other website Beautiful Balboa Park!

Faces tell stories at Veterans Day parade.

A big parade for Veterans Day this morning in San Diego.

Many different faces, young and old, moving forward together down Harbor Drive. Each face telling a story.

The story of a life filled with pride, courage, honor, sacrifice and friendship.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

100th Anniversary of Armistice Day in Balboa Park.

Marines march west down El Prado toward the California Tower during the 2015 Garden Party of the Century in Balboa Park.
Marines march west down El Prado toward the California Tower during the 2015 Garden Party of the Century in Balboa Park.

This Sunday will be the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day.

Armistice Day marks the end of World War One. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the horrifying “war to end all wars” finally ended. (In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in the United States.)

On Sunday in Balboa Park something special will take place to honor the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day.

The carillon inside the California Tower will chime at 11:00 am not the usual 11 times, but 21 times. After it chimes 21 times, Taps will be played. An hour later, at noon, the carillon bells will play a medley of WWI songs.

A variety of events in Balboa Park are also planned for Veterans Day weekend.

Several I’ve noted are:

Friday, beginning at 5 pm, at the San Diego Museum of Art. Free admission to the museum, where visitors can see the fantastic Artists at War: American Posters of World War I exhibition. Enjoy artwork and presentations by local veterans groups, the Air and Space Museum, a performance by Westwind Brass, and a screening of the 1938 classic The Dawn Patrol.

Saturday, 3 pm – 4 pm, at the Veterans Museum. A free preview by the San Diego Opera of their upcoming production of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, which concerns a brief, miraculous “unofficial armistice” that occurred in the trenches during World War One.

Sunday, 11 am – 5:30 pm, at the Balboa Park Carousel. A free ride will be provided to all veterans, active military and their families, courtesy of the Friends of Balboa Park. In addition, the Historical Unit of Southern California will have a special WWI commemoration at eleven o’clock.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Strange beauty of a brick wall downtown.

Stand at the corner of India Street and A Street in downtown San Diego, turn north, and you’ll probably notice an old brick wall on the other side of a parking lot. Approach the wall and you’ll see a complex mosaic of paint and mortar. Like the brushstrokes of a painting, they tell a unique story.

I’m under the impression this building was once a soda bottling plant. I posted a couple photographs of the Hires Root Beer graphics five years ago here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Remembering, helping Veterans this weekend.

Sunday is Veterans Day.

At events around San Diego County, ordinary citizens will honor heroes who’ve served our country. Flags will wave, bands will march, memories will be shared. Handshakes will transmit gratitude.

Over the years I’ve attended a variety of events that celebrate veterans. I’ve also learned of several ways to provide veterans with a little assistance.

Here are links to past blog posts that might interest you…

Photos of the San Diego Veterans Day Parade!

Veteran’s Day celebrated in Balboa Park.

World War II vets honored on USS Midway.

World War II vets honored at Spirit of ’45 event.

American heroes honored at Veterans Museum.

Students interview veterans for USS Midway exhibit.

Heroes of Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

Check the following links for opportunities to make a donation or help in some other way…

Helping veterans heal through creative art.

How to get support from fellow Veterans in San Diego.

Two ways to thank those who served and sacrificed.

Horse therapy helps veterans recover from trauma.

Spreckels Organ raises funds for Operation Rebound.