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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Unexpected treasures of music in Balboa Park.

R. Jelani Eddington rehearses on the Spreckels Organ.
R. Jelani Eddington rehearses on the Spreckels Organ.

Take an amble through San Diego’s amazing Balboa Park and you never know what interesting or beautiful thing you might randomly stumble upon. Early this afternoon I was extremely fortunate!

It isn’t uncommon to hear the music of amateur street musicians throughout the gigantic urban park. Performers of all ages can be found in every nook and cranny playing a harp, a guitar, a violin, drums–you name it–hoping for a tip from generous visitors. Professional musicians, however, play in concerts that are scheduled, publicized, and attended by large, expectant audiences. Usually.

My first lucky discovery was stumbling upon famed theatre organist R. Jelani Eddington in a lengthy rehearsal for Monday night’s International Organ Festival at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Apart from a wedding party taking photographs by the pavilion’s elegant colonnade, and a few passing tourists, I seemed to have the amazing performance all to myself. Wow! The Spreckels Organ was producing pure magic, as the king of instruments was handled with world-class skill. What a privilege to listen!

R. Jelani Eddington was 2001 Theatre Organist Of The Year.
R. Jelani Eddington was 2001 Theatre Organist Of The Year.
The lawn of Balboa Park's International Cottages is empty.
The lawn of Balboa Park’s International Cottages is empty.

My second sensational discovery took place at the more modest International Cottages stage not far away. A duet was playing excellent, moving music to an all but nonexistent audience. It seems the performance was very poorly publicized, or not at all.

Reflections: Jerry and Angie, is the name of the very talented group that was being featured by the House of the United States of America. They were playing folk songs and classic American tunes with banjo and simple, heart-stirring vocals. I’m a sucker for this type of music, and I loved listening to She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain, Country Roads, God Bless America and more. I got a kick at how they treated me and the half a dozen others on the lawn like a regular audience, asking us to sing along and providing interesting comments on many songs. I’ve never heard a banjo so well played.

Reflections is Jerry on banjo and Angie with vocals.
Reflections is Jerry on banjo and Angie with vocals.

Balboa Park contains endless magical surprises!

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Anthony Newman plays the Spreckels Organ.

People arrive early to get good seats for tonight's organ concert.
People arrive very early to get good seats for tonight’s organ concert.

Mere pictures and words are inadequate to describe the fantastic concert I enjoyed this evening in Balboa Park. Tonight was the first Monday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion of the Summer International Organ Festival.

The special guest organist was Anthony Newman, widely considered one of the foremost Baroque musicians in the United States. He’s made countless recordings, won numerous awards, performed at New York City’s prestigious Lincoln Center more than 60 times, and was described by Wynton Marsalis as “The High Priest of Bach.” Tonight’s concert, I’m glad to say, was jam packed with Johann Sebastian Bach–my absolute favorite composer!

Anthony Newman seemed superhuman at times. He played difficult pieces with ease, crispness and energy.  It was flawless poetry and simply amazing.  The concert was over much too soon!

Here are a few pics!

Spreckels Organ Society membership table and a smile.
Spreckels Organ Society membership table and a smile.
Anticipating first concert of Summer International Organ Festival.
Anticipating first concert of the Summer International Organ Festival.
Big banner on Organ Pavilion's colonnade announces the event.
Big banner on Organ Pavilion’s colonnade announces the free event.
Rolling out the red carpet for great organist Anthony Newman.
Rolling out the red carpet for great American organist Anthony Newman.
Flag and a bronze plaque of the historic pavilion.
Flag and a bronze plaque of the historic pavilion.
Beautiful pavilion is a treat for the eye in changing light.
Beautiful building is a treat for the eye in changing light.
Elegant peek by organ assistant at the growing crowd.
Elegant peek by organ assistant at the growing crowd.
Dr. Carol Williams, civic organist, announces guest musician.
Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s Civic Organist, announces guest artist.
Famed Baroque organist Anthony Newman greets audience.
Famed Baroque organist Anthony Newman greets audience.
A masterful performance on the Spreckels Organ begins.
A masterful performance on the Spreckels Organ begins.

Those pipes you see on the left side of the stage form the new Centennial Tuba rank, soon to be added to the Spreckels Organ for its one hundredth anniversary on New Year’s Eve!

Anthony Newman acknowledges enthusiastic applause.
Anthony Newman acknowledges long, enthusiastic applause.
KUSI television cameraman records a portion of the event.
KUSI television cameraman records a portion of the event.
The lights come on in the twilight and the pavilion becomes magical.
The lights come on in the twilight and the pavilion becomes magical.
There are 1400 embedded lights in the main structure and colonnades.
There are 1400 embedded lights in the main structure and colonnades.

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. You can observe similar plaster ornamentation on the Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings that line El Prado, in the center of Balboa Park.

Night descends and people stretch their legs during intermission.
Night descends and people stretch their legs during intermission.

My camera is worthless at night, so I recorded only half of the evening.  But the music throughout was amazing!  What a brilliant start to the 2014 International Organ Festival!

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House of Scotland Pipe Band in Balboa Park.

House of Scotland Pipe Band performs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
House of Scotland Pipe Band performs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Today’s free Sunday organ concert at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion featured the amazing House of Scotland Pipe Band! The House of Scotland makes its home in the International Cottages just steps away from the pavilion.

I’ve always loved bagpipe music. It’s even better, if that’s possible, when accompanied by Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s famous Civic Organist, on the majestic Spreckels Organ. The large-lunged instruments combine their resonance, and with the addition of a booming drum, the melodies that are produced really stir the blood. I wish the concert had gone on all afternoon!

Songs included Highland Cathedral, Flower of Scotland, Blue Bells, Amazing Grace, Scotland the Brave, and The Ballad of Glencoe.

Raising and twirling the baton in time with great bagpipe music.
Raising and twirling the baton in time with great bagpipe music.
Dr. Carol Williams accompanies bagpipes with Spreckels Organ.
Dr. Carol Williams accompanies bagpipes on the Spreckels Organ.
The big booming drum of the House of Scotland!
The big booming drum of the House of Scotland!
Balboa Park visitors mingle with musicians after the stirring concert.
Balboa Park visitors mingle with musicians after the stirring concert.

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Drama and music in Balboa Park’s Zoro Garden.

Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park's small Zoro Garden.
Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park’s small Zoro Garden.

Today during my walk through Balboa Park, I noticed that the small Zoro Garden has become a venue for summer weekend entertainment. Usually the shady, sinuous, amphitheatre-like garden is left to the butterflies, who flutter here and there in sunbeams above ragged beds of colorful flowers.

As I walked down, actors were rehearsing for a comedic play on the bare dirt center of the garden. At two o’clock a musical performance began, and I listened while chowing down on a polish sausage. I love Balboa Park!

Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Jennie Buss' Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Jennie Buss’ Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Folks enjoy a musical performance in Balboa Park.
Folks enjoy an intimate musical performance in Balboa Park.

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Villa Montezuma house in Sherman Heights.

Villa Montezuma is a Queen Anne Victorian mansion.
The historical Villa Montezuma is a Queen Anne Victorian mansion.

Here is a cool sight that I walked past yesterday! Check out the absolutely fantastic Villa Montezuma mansion!  You can find it nestled in Sherman Heights, an old, semi-decayed neighborhood just east of downtown San Diego.

Also called the Jesse Shepard house, this architectural marvel was built in 1887. It’s considered by some to be the finest example of Queen Anne architecture on the West Coast, plus it’s rumored to be haunted by two ghosts! In the more recent past it was a museum, but eventually fell into disrepair. It’s currently being renovated. Hopefully it should reopen next year!

Jesse Shepard, born in London in 1848, was a famous, flamboyant European musician. While performing for Alexander II of Russia, Jesse was introduced to the Czar’s medium who taught him how to conduct seances. Shepard became obsessed with spiritualism, and after moving to San Diego at the suggestion of a local spiritualist society, built the Villa Montezuma to his own exact specifications.

Included in the amazing house are highly ornate towers and stained glass windows. It’s interior is just as imaginative, and is said to contain secret passages. Several gargoyles can be spotted should you walk down the sidewalk. Just the sort of place to hold seances! And Shepard held many! He claimed to have spoken with the spirits of Mozart, Beethoven and Shakespeare, just to name a few.

Today it’s rumored that the Villa Montezuma is haunted by a man who hung himself in the observatory tower. And by Jesse Shepard himself! Unexplained piano music is said to be heard coming from the historical mansion late at night!

Fantastic house in Sherman Heights is supposedly haunted.
Fantastic house in Sherman Heights is supposedly haunted.
Musician and writer Jesse Shepherd worked in the high tower.
Musician and writer Jesse Shepard worked in the high tower.
A closer look at detail on house side.
A closer look at detail on Villa Montezuma’s east side.
Gargoyle head on a famous historical mansion.
Gargoyle head on a famous San Diego mansion.
Another gargoyle perches on the roof!
Another gargoyle is perched on the roof!

Here are two sunnier photos I took on a later date…

An excellent example of Queen Anne style architecture in Southern California.
An excellent example of Queen Anne style architecture in Southern California.
Photo of Jesse Shepard's Villa Montezuma in San Diego's Sherman Heights neighborhood.
Photo of Jesse Shepard’s Villa Montezuma in San Diego’s Sherman Heights neighborhood.

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Lots of fun at Seaport Village’s Busker Festival!

Baard Kolstad drums like crazy near the Pier Cafe.
Baard Kolstad drums like crazy near the Pier Cafe.

This afternoon I checked out the Spring Busker Festival at Seaport Village. A huge crowd turned out to enjoy the sunny day and some amazing street performers! Enjoy a few cool pics!

Aerial silks dancer performs near Seaport Village carousel.
Aerial silks dancer performs near Seaport Village carousel.
Crowd gathers at West Plaza for a Busker Festival magic show.
Crowd gathers at West Plaza for a Busker Festival magic show.
Funny magician wows kids at Seaport Village.
Funny magician wows kids at Seaport Village.
Folks head toward busker stage in Embarcadero Marina Park North.
Folks head toward busker stage in Embarcadero Marina Park North.
The hilarious Skip Banks prepares to enter a huge balloon.
The crazy Skip Banks prepares to enter a huge balloon.
Skip Banks' head pops out of big balloon at Busker Festival.
Skip Banks’ head pops out of big balloon at Busker Festival.

Skip Banks was absolutely hilarious. His hyperactive routine, celebrating silly slices of our pop culture, was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long while! His website has some great videos.

Acrobatic juggler entertains crowd with spectator's help.
Acrobatic juggler entertains crowd with spectator’s help.
Baard Kolstad, of Norway, sets up in East Plaza at Seaport Village.
Baard Kolstad, of Norway, sets up in East Plaza at Seaport Village.

Baard Kolstad came all the way from Norway to participate in the Seaport Village Busker Festival. With his dazzling skills, he seems destined to be the next big rock drummer!

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People dance as Catillacs rock Seaport Village.

People dance as the Catillacs rock Seaport Village.
People dance as the Catillacs rock Seaport Village.

Whenever I take a weekend walk through Seaport Village, I always hope the Catillacs are playing their vintage rock and roll at the East Plaza Gazebo. Because nobody can resist dancing to those classic tunes!

There’s just something magical about the sunshiny, laid-back atmosphere. Everyone loses their inhibitions. Young and old alike are moved by the music, and twirl about like delighted maniacs!

People let loose and just enjoy the weekend.
People let loose and just enjoy the weekend.
Everyone is jamming to vintage rock and roll music.
Everyone is jamming to vintage rock and roll music.
Dancing to a live band near the East Plaza Gazebo.
Dancing to a live band near the East Plaza Gazebo.
Catillacs guitarist in Seaport Village gazebo.
Catillacs guitarist in Seaport Village gazebo.

Joshua Randle, a great musician in San Diego.

Joshua Randle and friend play music on San Diego's embarcadero.
Joshua Randle and friend play music on San Diego’s embarcadero.

I was surprised during my walk today to hear some exceptionally good music from two young performers near Seaport Village. Joshua Randle and his friend were playing extremely polished music with outstanding vocals and providing great, energetic entertainment for everyone passing by. I have no doubt that these guys will become superstars!

Please check out Joshua’s website!

Joshua Randle is a talented up-and-coming singer and musician.
Joshua Randle is a talented up-and-coming singer and musician.
A beautiful day and some great positive, stirring music.
A beautiful San Diego day and some great positive, stirring music.