Online petition to reopen the Starlight Bowl.

A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. No known copyright restrictions image from Flickr.
A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. No known copyright restrictions image from Flickr.

The historic Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park has been out of operation since 2011. The organization Save Starlight has been working diligently to bring this beloved open air amphitheater back to life!

If you’d like to lend a hand, consider signing this online petition. Add your voice to others who urge the City of San Diego to grant Save Starlight a lease, so that they can begin the needed renovations and finally open to the public!

I added my name to the petition a moment ago. Will you?

You, too, can sign the petition, or learn more about the project, by clicking 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!

Dvořák, Liszt and laughs on Silent Movie Night!

Where can you listen to exquisitely played classical music, then laugh at absurdly silly slapstick humor . . . all in one sitting?

At Silent Movie Night!

This evening, acclaimed concert organist Clara Gerdes played classical compositions by Dvořák, Duruflé and Liszt on the incomparable Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park. Then immediately after, the audience was laughing uproariously to the gag-filled antics of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton! (Accompanied by organ, of course!)

From the sublime to the absurd. That was the magic of Silent Movie Night at the 34th San Diego International Organ Festival!

You didn’t go? Why not?

Silent Movie Night is one of the most fun events every summer in Balboa Park. A couple thousand happy people fill the benches at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. And it’s free!

So watch for it next year!

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!

Free ice cream and concert in Balboa Park!

What’s better than free ice cream and a free concert?

Free ice cream and a fantastic free concert in beautiful Balboa Park!

A huge crowd came out to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion this evening to smile, laugh, sing, and dance to the music of San Diego’s own The Moonlight Serenade Orchestra. And, of course, to devour ice cream!

The annual Ice Cream Social concert, one of many free summer Twilight in the Park concerts, was made possible by the awesome folks of Forever Balboa Park!

The music was infectious. The vibe was energetic. The audience was often clapping, and couples were swaying and spinning on the outdoor dance floor. Tunes included Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Dancing Queen, Old Time Rock and Roll, Respect, In the Mood, Over the Rainbow, and a variety of others, including many big band classics.

The highlight for me–and it appeared to be for many–was the solo drumming performance by D. J. Jackson in the encore song Sing, Sing, Sing. He was a magician whose magic seemed limitless. I didn’t want his inspired wizardry to end.

A long standing ovation resulted!

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 musician’s triumphant return to San Diego!

Many years ago I happened to attend a Spreckels Organ concert featuring an up-and-coming young organist who’d recently attended La Jolla High School. Her name was Chelsea Chen.

This evening, Chelsea Chen, now an internationally renowned organist, who has played in more famous venues and won more prizes than I can mention, returned triumphantly to San Diego, receiving loud and sustained applause for her performance during the 2022 International Summer Organ Festival.

Her fingers easily mastered Verdi, Bach, an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley, and many more–even a jazz piano piece based on the theme of The Flintstones. And, of course, she played her own stirring composition Taiwanese Suite, which incorporates beautiful folk music from Taiwan.

Her warm, graceful notes filled many ears.

As I listened I thought: That concert long ago feels like yesterday. How did the years fly by so quickly?

Enjoy the special moments.

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!

International Organ Festival begins with a Thank You!

The 34th San Diego International Organ Festival began this evening in Balboa Park.

It was the first festival concert of many to come this summer. They are free to the public on Monday evenings, beginning at 7:30 pm. See the full program here. Some of the world’s top organists will fill thousands of ears with dazzling sound from the incomparable Spreckels Organ.

But tonight, before San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez began his magic, two people were brought to the pavilion stage for a special Thank You.

Past Spreckels Organ Society President Arlene Way and Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton spoke a few words–including doing good for the community and bringing happiness to people–then received applause.

I want to personally thank Robert Plimpton. He’s the one who “introduced” me to the Spreckels Organ. One day, I forget when, as a young man in Balboa Park, I sat down on one of those metal benches and listened. I hadn’t realized an organ could play so movingly, so exquisitely. Like poetry.

His energetic, elegant, precise play of the mighty Spreckels Organ made me a fan of the King of Instruments for life. Sitting on that bench, amazed, it might have been the first time I realized Balboa Park has a living heartbeat.

So, thank you to all who keep that heartbeat going.

And thank you Robert Plimpton.

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!

Ukrainian beauty and young talent at Spreckels Organ!

A special concert was held today at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.

San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez was joined by Ukrainian born soprano Anna Belaya, who sang the Ukrainian National Anthem and, afterward, a very beautiful, uplifting piece of Ukrainian music. Her voice soared. We were reminded that there is yet hope in our world.

Then three student organists, winners of American Guild of Organists San Diego Chapter scholarships, took to the stage to make beautiful music!

You should have been there, in the sunshine, listening.

Sunshine means warm! Lots of colorful umbrellas provide shade for those sitting on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion benches.
Raúl Prieto Ramírez introduces soprano Anna Belaya. She was born in Ukraine.
Extraordinary, triumphant singing accompanies the great Spreckels Organ.
Introducing Sarah Amos, Education Coordinator for the American Guild of Organists San Diego Chapter.
Sarah explains how scholarships are awarded to outstanding student organists, such as the three who performed today.
The first young organist, Lily Bodor, in the Novice Division, takes the stage!
Lily Bodor plays This Is My Father’s World from Sonatina on Themes of Creation, by Larry Visser. Her future is very bright!
Jonah Molina, from the Advanced Division, is introduced.
Jonah Molina plays Trumpet Tune, by Douglas Wagner. Another great performance!
Finally, Jesse Puglia is introduced. He’s from the Advanced Division, too.
Jesse Puglia plays Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 549, by J. S. Bach. The difficult piece is delivered brilliantly!

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!

San Diego Symphony musicians perform magic!

The musicians of the San Diego Symphony performed magic this evening.

Together, using enchanted instruments, the magicians summoned beautiful, ephemeral music back into our world.

With quick, subtle fingers, visiting artist Gabriela Martinez cast potent spells through a grand piano. Her dancing fingers mysteriously conjured the eternal notes of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. Strong magic sprinkled the audience with soft, crystalline raindrops. And aural whirlwinds.

The concert also included Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Op. 35. Its timeless splendor was inspired by the stories of the Arabian Nights.

No wonder those fairy-tale notes were summoned by magicians!

If you’ve never listened to the San Diego Symphony at their outdoor Rady Shell, on San Diego Bay, you’re missing pure magic.

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!

Kicking off the 2022 Coronado Community READ!

An awesome month-long event kicked off today in the grassy park beside the Coronado Public Library. The 2022 Coronado Community READ is underway!

The event, in its sixth year, encourages residents of Coronado to read one particular book, which is selected by vote-casting members of the community. After two years of isolation and strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be more important and satisfying than ever for neighbors to come together with a shared experience.

For 2022 the Coronado Community READ book is West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. West with Giraffes, according to its description, is about “two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America as they traveled across the country to our very own San Diego Zoo.” (Wow! I think I need to read it, too, even though I don’t live in Coronado!)

You can learn more about the book here!

There are two additional books for Coronado’s young readers to enjoy together: Turtle in Paradise: The Graphic Novel by Jennifer L. Holm, and Ty the Quiet Giraffe by Carrie Hasler.

When I heard about this unique “community read” I had to go check out its kick-off today at Coronado Library Park. Following a small speech, the gathered audience listened to the great jazzy music of the Coronado Big Band!

There are various special happenings coming up in April that are part of the big reading event. This coming Thursday, April 7, the author of West with Giraffes will be speaking and autographing her book!

You can find all the dates, times and details by clicking 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!

A wonderful Christmas concert in Balboa Park!

This evening a wonderful Christmas concert was enjoyed in Balboa Park. The San Diego Ballet, San Diego Opera, and Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez performed holiday favorites for a large crowd at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion!

Ballerinas filed onto the stage to dance to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, then soaring voices filled the chilly night air with warm selections from Handel’s Messiah, and many favorite Christmas carols.

The concert concluded with a rousing Hallelujah Chorus.

I’m delighted to see how this annual free Christmas concert has grown in popularity to become a true San Diego holiday tradition.

On one special December evening some our city’s finest cultural institutions unite, bringing joy to young and old alike.

I sat in the pavilion and listened, and managed a few okay photos from afar.

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!

Lightning and thunder at magical Spreckels concert!

Tonight an unusual, truly magical concert was held in Balboa Park at the outdoor Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

As lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, internationally renowned organist Ahreum Han answered with her own own thunder for a small audience sheltered against the storm up on the pavilion stage.

Those of us who experienced this extraordinary concert, part of the 33rd San Diego International Organ Festival, sat almost directly under the majestic Spreckels Organ pipes and mere feet away from Ahreum Han as she played elegantly, easily, masterfully.

As you can imagine, the unusual circumstances provided a once-in-lifetime opportunity for music lovers. My goosebumps were on overdrive.

The music flowed like bright lightning from the fingers of Ahreum, and at times it seemed she was playing a duet with mighty nature. When she concluded each piece, thunder joined the applause.

You had to be there.

It was an experience an adventurous few, who refused to be deterred by a threat of lightning and rain, will never ever forget.

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!