San Diego gathers to sing Christmas carols!

Is it possible for perfect strangers to come together spontaneously and sing as one? It happened this afternoon in San Diego in Balboa Park!

Audience members from today’s free Sunday concert were summoned to the stage of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. A smiling Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez and local singer and songwriter Lauren Leigh Martin led one and all through many joyful Christmas carols!

Is a single picture worth a thousand words? Here’s a many thousands of words story…

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!

Horrifying scenes in Balboa Park!

Several horrifying scenes were observed by those visiting Balboa Park this evening!

An enormous crowd eagerly watched as Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Buster Keaton were frightened out of their wits by a series of absurdly hilarious incidents. All the while accompanied by music from the Spreckels Organ!

Yes, tonight was Halloween Silent Movie Night at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Organist Mark Herman provided musical notes of suspense and humor for three spooky silent films during this last performance of the 33rd San Diego International Organ Festival.

Mark Herman performs over 30 concerts and silent film presentations around the world every year. His international awards and accomplishments are numerous. This was his very first visit to the mighty Spreckels Organ, world’s largest musical instrument!

The organ added emotional flair to the nonstop slapstick action on the screen. Laughter erupted frequently!

How can you not laugh when Laurel & Hardy finally manage to break into a graveyard, then encounter a prankster in a ghostly sheet!

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!

San Diego International Organ Festival returns!

Every time a world-class organist performs in Balboa Park, the Spreckels Organ shines.

Tonight the Spreckels Organ, largest outdoor instrument in the world, one of San Diego’s most unique and precious treasures, absolutely sparkled.

Concert organist Hector Olivera filled Balboa Park with magic during the first performance of the two-month-long San Diego International Organ Festival.

Hector Olivera, considered one of the greatest organists alive, took the stage with his humor and deft touch and created something extraordinary. I sat mesmerized throughout the concert. The music he summoned from the Spreckels Organ was subtle, luminous, alive.

Hector Olivera was a child prodigy. As a five-year-old he played for Eva Perón. Before he’d left his teens he’d performed for heads of state. He has since played in many of the world’s most prestigious venues.

Tonight he started the 2021 San Diego International Organ Festival with an act that will be hard to top. But more top organists are coming, including San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez!

If you love listening to world-class musicians you must go to this free weekly event. The Spreckels Organ shines in Balboa Park every Monday at 7:30 pm through October 25, 2021!

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!

What does it feel like to play the Spreckels Organ?

What does it feel like to play the Spreckels Organ, the world’s largest musical instrument located in the heart of Balboa Park?

Raul Prieto Ramírez, internationally renowned San Diego Civic Organist, played Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece Toccata and Fugue in D minor to start today’s free Sunday concert.

Perhaps this series of photos can transmit a bit of the feeling…

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!

Live organ concerts return to Balboa Park!

Hooray! Live organ concerts are returning to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park! The free Sunday concerts at two o’clock resume this weekend!

The COVID-19 pandemic made public gatherings of this sort out of the question for a very, very long time. Weekly concerts, performed on the Spreckels Organ by world-renowned San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez, could only be heard online.

But that horrible episode is over, and one of my very favorite activities is back!

Be sure to mark Sunday at 2:00 pm on your calendar. I just did!

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!

Music education fund honors past Civic Organist.

The Spreckels Organ Society has announced that their increasingly important music education fund is now named after beloved past Civic Organist Jared Jacobsen.

According to the Spreckels Organ Society website’s page concerning this news, the Jared Jacobsen Educational Fund: “…underwrites the visits made by elementary school class groups to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion for mini-concerts and a peek backstage…” In addition, new financial support offered up in honor of Jared has allowed the Spreckels Organ Society to produce “a foundation on which to plan more ‘distance learning’ options for educational programs, identifying projects that can introduce the organ to students everywhere…”

There are certain things I especially love in San Diego that I blog about repeatedly. The Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park is near the top of that list. I can’t tell you how much enjoyment and inspiration I’ve received while attending free Sunday organ concerts over the years.

Indeed, thousands of music lovers in San Diego and around the world are inspired by the great Spreckels Organ. And by San Diego’s extraordinary Civic Organists, too!

So, during this period in time when we’re all trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, I was excited to learn the Spreckels Organ Society is planning to implement more distance learning. Music in our schools, and in the life of young people, should thrive no matter the present circumstances! Don’t you think?

Imagine. Kids have the amazing opportunity to learn from Raúl Prieto Ramírez, one of the world’s recognized top concert organists! That’s pretty special.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Jared Jacobsen Educational Fund, click here then scroll down for more detailed information.

Concert celebrates organist Jared Jacobsen.

This evening there was a special concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Former Civic Organist Jared Jacobsen was celebrated.

Jared Jacobsen was the fifth official San Diego Civic Organist, serving from 1978 to 1985. In more recent years, I was fortunate to hear him extract magic from the great Spreckels Organ on those memorable Sundays when he was a substitute organist.

This summer he tragically passed away.

Thinking back, I recall that whenever I attended one of his concerts, his easy smile, wit, and his sparkling music always made me feel joy.

The concert this evening, performed by Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton and current Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez, featured the exact same selections that were performed during Jared Jacobsen’s final concert on the Spreckels Organ, on January 1, 2019.

During the concert many words were spoken of Jared Jacobsen’s character, and of how he touched those around him. There were heartfelt tributes by Jean Samuels, President of the Spreckels Organ Society; Lyle Blackington, Spreckels Organ Curator Emeritus; Jeremy Kaercher, of the First Lutheran Church of San Diego where Jared was Director of Music; and a very moving recollection of Jared’s humanity and generous spirit by Christine Micu, of The Bishop’s School in La Jolla where Jared taught.

I jotted down some words that were spoken.

“…he was gifted, charming, and he showed us all how to be a great human being…he was a superstar…his vitality was infectious…contagious zest for life…he was never a self-promoter…his verbal skills were equal to his musical skills…a living encyclopedia…elegant simplicity…the kindest and most caring person…to put it simply, he made people happy…his capacity to sparkle and spread light wherever he went…”

The popularity and success of the great Spreckels Organ today owes much to the tireless efforts and optimism of Jared Jacobsen.

More importantly, thousands of lives have been enriched by the spirit of one beloved man.

His music plays on.

Remembering the music of Jared Jacobsen.

Notes of elegance and joy are missing from the world.

Today, during the Sunday organ concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, I learned that former San Diego Civic Organist Jared Jacobsen has passed away.

The news is sudden and painful.

I don’t believe I ever heard Jared play during his tenure as San Diego Civic Organist, which lasted from 1978 to 1985. But I have occasionally heard him playing the Spreckels Organ as a Sunday substitute, and have been dazzled by his artistry during past International Summer Organ Festivals.

The music that flowed through him was polished, elegant and above all joyful.

His notes uplifted every person who listened in the audience. He made thousands of lives more beautiful. He had a great smile and sense of humor, and uncommon poise, and a love for the organ, the King of Instruments. His passion came through during every performance.

I was told a memorial concert is being planned, to be held during an evening at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

I just want to say I miss him.

UPDATE

There is to be a special concert to honor Jared’s life and music. From the Spreckels Organ Society blog:

Celebration for Jared: Free Concert on Saturday Nov 23 at 5 p.m.

A special concert, presented free to the public by Raúl Prieto Ramírez, San Diego Civic Organist, and Robert Plimpton, San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus, together with other artists as noted below. The purpose of this concert is honor the life and music of Jared Jacobsen (1949-2019), San Diego’s Fifth Official Civic Organist from 1978-85. Jared was a musical inspiration to all who knew him! This concert will convene friends and admirers from near and far for a reprise (and augmentation) of his final concert on the Spreckels Organ, which was held on January 1st of this year.

To honor Jared, the Spreckels Organ Society has named its Education Fund for him. All donations received by the Society at Saturday’s concert will be matched dollar-for-dollar by individual gifts from the Spreckels Organ Society’s Trustees, up to the amount of $12,000. Online donations are also accepted.

A most extraordinary organ concert.

Over the years, during the course of many International Summer Organ Festivals in Balboa Park, I’ve been fortunate to hear concerts by some of the greatest organists in the world.

But this evening’s concert was extraordinary.

I’m at a loss for words to describe how much I was moved by the masterful, absolutely astonishing performance by Gunnar Idenstam.

Gunner Idenstam, from Sweden, has distinguished himself by winning some of the highest prizes and honors in the organ world. In 1984 he won the very prestigious international competition in improvisation, the Grand Prix de Chartres.

His concert tonight, to my ear, was perfect. He made the Spreckels Organ sound like a sparkling heart.

From his fingertips, through the pipes, came waves and droplets and streams of emotion from the deepest wells. The organ’s voice was complex, subtle, dancing, regal, triumphant, exuberant, sometimes manic, and it soared and soared, and stirred, and soared again, lifting me to a place of pure, exalted emotion.

I don’t know how to describe it.

Parts of his composition Metal Angel were so exultant I almost felt myself flying.

Listening with my eyes closed, I could feel my spirit whirling forward through an epic story. With victory in reach.