Von Trapp family sings live on stage like angels.

The von Trapp family sings live on stage at San Diego's Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
The von Trapp family sings live on stage at San Diego’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

This afternoon in Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion, a very large crowd of people heard the singing of angels.

The great grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp were live on stage, performing beautiful, exquisitely harmonized vocals during this Sunday’s free organ concert. Almost everyone loves the classic film The Sound of Music, which was based on the real life musical family’s escape from Nazi occupied Austria. Sofi, Melanie, Amanda, and August von Trapp are the grandchildren of Werner von Trapp, who was portrayed in the movie as Kurt, the youngest child. The four young musicians have obviously inherited the von Trapp magic.

The quartet of siblings have performed around the world to critical acclaim, appearing in the world’s top concert venues and on many major television shows. We in San Diego were truly fortunate to be graced with their music…and on a sunny, perfect day!

The von Trapps performed eight incredible numbers: Dream a Little Dream of Me; the old German folk song Die Dorfmusik (which was made famous by the German group Comedian Harmonists before being disbanded by the Nazis, because some members were Jewish); Storm, an original composition written by the group while living in Portland, Oregon and performed a cappella ; French pop musician Françoise Madeleine Hardy’s well known Le Premier Bonheur du Jour; The Sound of Music, by Rodgers & Hammerstein; Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; a new piece (I missed the name) sung with ukelele from their upcoming album, due to be released on April 14; and, of course, Edelweiss. The four voices were so pure, so buoyant, so uplifting, and melded so deliciously, a standing ovation erupted.

Wow!

A huge crowd gathered as the incredible family quartet warmed up.
A huge crowd gathered as the incredible family quartet warmed up.
Today's Sunday afternoon concert included Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego's Civic Organist.
Today’s Sunday afternoon concert included Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s Civic Organist.
Youthful singers have inherited the von Trapp vocal magic.
Youthful singers have inherited the von Trapp vocal magic.
Almost all of the benches in the large Spreckels Organ Pavilion were full.
Almost all of the benches in the large Spreckels Organ Pavilion were full.
The von Trapps sing on stage on a sunny San Diego afternoon!
The von Trapps sing on stage on a sunny San Diego afternoon!

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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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Steve Jobs crazy quote on House of Blues.

steve jobs crazy quote on house of blues

This cool graphic appears on the front of downtown San Diego’s popular restaurant and concert venue House of Blues, not far from the ticket window. It consists of a famous quote made by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

The quote reads:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Robert Plimpton plays the Spreckels Organ.

Robert Plimpton at the Spreckels Organ.
Robert Plimpton at the Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park.

Who’s that person at the microphone in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion? It looks like Robert Plimpton, San Diego’s Civic Organist Emeritus! Most of the time he uses his amazing musical talent as resident Organist of the First United Methodist Church.

Robert Plimpton was San Diego’s official Civic Organist from 1984 to 2000, when Dr. Carol Williams (first woman in the United States to be appointed Civic Organist) took his place. She happened to be out of town, so he returned for last Sunday’s free public concert in Balboa Park . . . and played magnificently, of course!

I tried to get a good photo of the organ’s enormous pipes, but the images turned out too shadowy. I’ll try again at some future time!

One plaque at the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Dedicated to the people of San Diego and all the world, by the philanthropist Spreckels brothers in 1915.
A plaque at the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Dedicated to the people of San Diego and all the world, by the philanthropist Spreckels brothers in 1915.
View of Spreckels Organ Pavilion from Japanese Friendship Garden.
View of Spreckels Organ Pavilion from a spot near the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Bust of John D. Spreckels watches organ concerts behind benches.
Bust of John D. Spreckels watches organ concerts behind benches.

Here’s a photo I took in late 2015, during Balboa Park’s yearlong centennial celebration.

Patricia McAfee, mezzo soprano, and Robert Plimpton, San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus, perform during A Tribute to Kate Sessions, "The Mother of Balboa Park" concert on November 8, 2015.
Patricia McAfee, mezzo soprano, and Robert Plimpton, San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus, entertain a Sunday afternoon audience during “A Tribute to Kate Sessions, The Mother of Balboa Park” concert on November 8, 2015.

Umbrellas add color to Sunday organ concert.

colorful umbrellas at sunday organ concert

It must be around two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Time for the weekly free concert at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion!

Crowds gather in the sun under colorful umbrellas to listen to the majestic sound of the Spreckels Organ, one of the largest outdoor organs in the world. The city of San Diego employs an official Civic Organist, none other than Dr. Carol Williams, one of the top performing organists in the world! Each Sunday she plays classical music, jazz, marches . . . and occasionally one of her excellent original compositions. The Spreckels Organ Society helps to raise funds to keep the tradition of free public concerts alive. It’s a tradition that has lasted a hundred years!

The beautiful Spreckels Organ Pavilion is used for various concerts and events throughout the year, including the yearly December Nights festival around Christmas. It’s also a favorite venue for wedding photography. The ornate, elegant architecture makes it interesting to visit even when the stage and benches are empty.

Organ lovers enjoy shade under the San Diego sun.
Organ lovers enjoy shade under the San Diego sun.

San Diego Symphony banner adds life downtown.

san diego symphony banner downtown

When descending Cortez Hill, I often walk south down 8th Avenue past the big colorful banner on the Copley Symphony Hall building. I enjoy the huge, energetic image of Jahja Ling conducting the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

The above photograph was taken from the City College gymnasium on Park Boulevard. It’s a perfect spot to snap pics of downtown skyscrapers looking west.

Different San Diego Symphony banner on west side of building.
Different San Diego Symphony banner on west side of building.