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!

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.

Music like shadow and sunlight in leaves.

This evening I enjoyed another extraordinary concert of the 2019 San Diego International Organ Festival.

In a groundbreaking musical performance, San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez was joined on stage by a symphonic string quartet. Kathryn Hatmaker and Wesley Precourt played violin; Hanah Stuart played viola; and Alex Greenbaum played violoncello. The result was nothing less than brilliant.

The highlight of the concert was a sublime performance of César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor, transcribed by Raúl Prieto Ramírez for the organ.

The resonant voice of the Spreckels Organ and the yearning quality of the strings combined to bring forth exquisitely complex emotions. Bittersweet joy and heartbreak flowed together. The notes were rich with passion and tinged with regret. A whole lot like life.

A standing ovation concluded the evening.

Before the concert began in Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion, I walked through the nearby Japanese Friendship Garden.

When I saw my photographs of the garden’s natural beauty, it occurred to me that the music this evening was much like shadow and sunlight in leaves.

The rare magic produced this evening was the result of three San Diego treasures coming together: the world-class San Diego Symphony with its many talented musicians, one of the world’s most accomplished organists, and the Spreckels Organ, one of the most amazing musical instruments in the world.

May this magic become a tradition.

The promise of musical power.

Tomorrow evening’s San Diego International Organ Festival’s concert is going to be awesome. I heard part of the rehearsal today.

The majestic Spreckels Organ accompanied by beautifully played string instruments is too emotionally powerful for words.

Starting at 7:30 pm on Monday, August 26, at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez will be joined by four accomplished chamber musicians, including members of the San Diego Symphony.

You can sense the musical power a little bit in a few of these photos.

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 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.

Talented kids play the Spreckels Organ!

By far, the best part of my day in Balboa Park was the two o’clock Sunday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez introduced four amazing kids, who each proceeded to play complex musical pieces!

These amazing local students range from 9 years old to 11th grade. The audience listened attentively as Aska Enomoto, Blake Bundschuh, Declan Bohley and Stephen Priest made the king of instruments come alive. Each young person explained why they loved playing organ. All received trophies for their outstanding achievements!

Only the most talented musicians are allowed to play the historic Spreckels Organ, the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument!

My blog doesn’t feature sound, unfortunately, so these photos will have to suffice. A picture might not be worth a thousand notes, but perhaps you can hear a majestic note or two coming through your eyes.

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!