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!

San Diego’s joyful Reopening Celebration Concert!

This evening San Diego is celebrating the reopening of our city after the long, very difficult lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An epic Reopening Celebration Concert is underway at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park even as I type this!

I watched for about an hour and a half, while there was ample light to take photographs. What I saw on the stage was pure joy. Love of life.

Before the concert began, everyone in the audience grabbed a free ice cream treat courtesy of Forever Balboa Park (the recent merger of two organizations: Friends of Balboa Park and the Balboa Park Conservancy).

Then here came the first performance!

The Enchanted Tail was an operatic fairy tale for kids, by the awesome group Opera4Kids. The sweet, very funny opera featured a woodsman turned into a fox by a wicked witch, a lost voice, a crown, a cunning princess under a sleeping spell–and how a potentially tragic conflict is resolved happily through self-sacrifice and mutual compassion.

Then here came the San Diego Youth Ballet!

Then, to rousing cheers, here came Balboa Park’s own amazing, super energetic dance group, San Diego Civic Dance Arts!

After a wardrobe change, the group danced to Queen’s rock and roll classic Bohemian Rhapsody, played on the Spreckels Organ by San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez!

A triumphant performance!

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!

Friday evening drama in Balboa Park!

I encountered several dramatic scenes during my walk through Balboa Park this Friday evening!

First, as I passed the Old Globe Theatre complex, I noticed some sort of live event had begun in the plaza. I had stumbled upon the AXIS Free Performing Arts Series titled WORD UP!

As I understand it, the Old Globe’s summer AXIS program intends to engage the community, to make theatre matter to more people. The theme this evening was storytelling and community.

After a very brief, vague talk about the importance of oral tradition, the audience and online participants were asked an odd string of personal questions. Many shared how they feel about aspects of their lives and the people in their lives. I realize people communicating thoughts and feelings eye to eye in this age of isolated people staring at phones is a good thing. But the small audience appeared to be a clique of regulars.

I saw very few visitors in the park taking seats during my time in the audience. I’ll bet if there had been an exciting performance of live theatre in the plaza, many more casual passersby would have been drawn in and become engaged.

Next, as I wandered into the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, I was thrilled to see an enthusiastic group of young dancers rehearsing for the big Reopening Celebration Concert tomorrow evening at 5:30 pm!

I asked a member of the Spreckels Organ Society who was helping with the rehearsal who this group was on stage, and he didn’t know.

Finally, look what I spied in one arm of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion’s beautiful colonnade!

An absolutely fantastic photo shoot by Living World Entertainment!

Check out their website here!

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Big community celebration coming to Balboa Park!

There were many smiles throughout the large audience at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Every bench was full.

An exciting community celebration will be held in Balboa Park at the end of July!

Everyone is invited to gather at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on the evening of Saturday, July 31, 2021 to enjoy this amazing free event, featuring notable performers from all around San Diego.

Participating in the celebration will be Opera4Kids, San Diego Civic Dance Arts, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Grupo Folklórico Sabor de México, San Diego Master Chorale accompanied by San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez, and the fun Organ Pavilion Rock Band! The entertainment starts at 5:30 pm!

What is this big community celebration all about?

The reopening of San Diego after the pandemic!

Learn more by clicking here!

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!

A Long-Ago Christmas memory — Spreckels Organ Society

In the 1920s and early 30s — before the Christmas music of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, or Vince Guaraldi — it was a holiday tradition for world-famous mezzo-soprano Ernestine Schumann-Heink to sing Silent Night on the radio. Click the photo for the recording. She recorded Stille Nacht for Victor Records in 1908 at their Camden, New…

A Long-Ago Christmas memory — Spreckels Organ Society

I seldom reblog articles published elsewhere, but the above bit from the Spreckels Organ Society’s blog might appeal to some readers! It contains interesting San Diego history!

Have you ever wondered about that monument “In loving Memory of Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink. A Gold Star Mother. A Star of the World” located at the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park? The world-famous singer lived for many years in La Mesa!

Click the above link for the full article and a link to an historical recording!

And while you’re at it, give the Spreckels Organ Society’s blog a follow! Especially if you love Balboa Park and love organ music!

Here’s a pic I took of the monument…

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.

Listen to live Easter music around San Diego.

The historic Great Organ at St. Paul's Cathedral.
The historic Great Organ at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

There are many online opportunities to listen to live musical performances this Easter Sunday. During the present coronavirus pandemic, everyone who is safely at home can enjoy the inspiring music of Easter remotely.

As usual there will be a video live stream of the 2:00 Sunday organ concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramirez will also chat with those who tune in to listen. To read the details, click here.

Many local churches will be live streaming their Easter services, and those who listen will hear beautiful music from San Diego’s finest organs. To see the complete list, including links to the live streams, click here.

Playing the organ inside the beautiful First Presbyterian Church of San Diego.
Playing the organ inside the beautiful First Presbyterian Church of San Diego.

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!

Strangers come together to sing joyfully.

This afternoon, residents of San Diego and tourists from places around the world came together to sing joyfully.

Rising from the audience, perfect strangers gathered on the stage of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and sang Christmas carols.

Their voices touched the hearts of many who listened.

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!