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 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.