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!

A wonderful Christmas concert in Balboa Park!

This evening a wonderful Christmas concert was enjoyed in Balboa Park. The San Diego Ballet, San Diego Opera, and Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez performed holiday favorites for a large crowd at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion!

Ballerinas filed onto the stage to dance to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, then soaring voices filled the chilly night air with warm selections from Handel’s Messiah, and many favorite Christmas carols.

The concert concluded with a rousing Hallelujah Chorus.

I’m delighted to see how this annual free Christmas concert has grown in popularity to become a true San Diego holiday tradition.

On one special December evening some our city’s finest cultural institutions unite, bringing joy to young and old alike.

I sat in the pavilion and listened, and managed a few okay photos from afar.

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!

Photos of big K-pop competition in San Diego!

A big K-pop dance competition was held today in San Diego, at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. The epic event was part of “Korea Day at Balboa Park” hosted by the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles and San Diego’s own House of Korea.

I watched the first half of the competition and saw five high energy performances by groups competing in the K-Pop Cover Dance Festival Final. The huge audience was excited, as you can plainly see, and they had good reason! The music and dance was buoyant, fun, infectious, uplifting. It’s no wonder K-pop music has become a worldwide phenomenon!

I resumed my walk through Balboa Park realizing that, even with this world’s endless troubles, there are always reasons for happiness. There is much in life that is good. And what is truly good comes from the heart.

Please enjoy the following photographs!

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!

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!

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!

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