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San Diego Historical Landmarks–#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 9

San Diego Historical Landmarks

For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 1
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 2
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 3
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 4
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 5
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 6
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 7
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 8

El Prado Area Designation

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now that we have a horse (see part 8), we can move along faster!

If we stand in front of El Cid (again see part 8), we can observe several things. First, let’s look behind El Cid, where we will see the magnificent Spreckels Organ Pavilion:

Spreckels Organ in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Let’s take a walk over to the Pavilion and see what’s going on.

Spreckels Organ in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Spreckels Organ is the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument, built in 1914 for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Its construction was financed by John D. Spreckels (1853-1926), one of San Diego’s greatest philanthropists and benefactors.

The main building houses the organ and dressing rooms. It is flanked on both sides by curved, Grecian style colonnades illuminated by 1,400 embedded lights. It was futuristic for its time, and at night the facility resembles a fantasy land of wonderment and awe. There is seating for 2,400 patrons.

The organ weighs almost 100,000 pounds and is protected by a 20,000 pound roll-down steel door which seals the instrument from the outside elements when not in use. Wind power for its 4,518 pipes is provided by a 20 HP blower located in the basement. It’s powerful voices, coupled with its location in Balboa Park, mean that it can be heard up to three miles away.

I might also add that Carol Williams is San Diego’s current Civic Organist, the first woman in the United States to serve as a city’s Civic Organist.

Looks like they have rolled up the organ door, and a crowd is gathering. There is going to be a concert today!

Spreckels Organ in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Spreckels Organ concert in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Spreckels Organ concert in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Spreckels Organ concert in San Diego's Balboa Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The concert I went to see that day was Robert Plimpton, former San Diego Civic Organist, and Jason Ginter, Timpanist/Percussionist for the San Diego Symphony, performing as part of the Summer International Organ Festival, held annually here in San Diego. This was the 24th edition in 2011.

Following are two videos that I recorded that day. I had just started using the video function on my Canon 550D and wasn’t that familiar with it, so the videos are only parts of the two performances.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When I was living in College Station, Texas, from 1983 to 1993, and attending the First Presbyterian Church in Bryan, the first Sunday of the month featured various musical artists from throughout the world. One of the artists who made a regular appearance was Dr. Joyce Jones, The Joyce Oliver Bowden Professor of Music and Organist-in-Residence at Baylor University’s School of Music in Waco, Texas, just 90 miles away. I knew her well.

So who do you think was performing at the very first performance I ever went to at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in 1994? Yep. Dr. Joyce Jones. I saw her at Spreckels again a decade later. She is now almost 81 years of age, and retired from Baylor University in 2011.

Possibly the most inspiring piece I ever saw her play was “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the organ’s foot pedals. I have never seen feet move that fast in all my life, and yet she was sitting down going nowhere! Here she is playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” at the First United Methodist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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