Outdoor Sunday concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion inside Balboa Park are one of the best free things to do in San Diego. And, the 100-year-old organ is about to take the title of World’s Largest Outdoor Pipe Organ in a grand celebration that is open to the public.

This first-of-its-kind organ designed to play for an outdoor audience has been amazing music-lovers since December 31, 1914, when from his presidential desk, Woodrow Wilson touched the telegraph key that set off fireworks and lit the Pavilion’s 1,644 incandescent bulbs launching the Panama-California International Exposition.

Among the first of Balboa Park’s cultural gems, thanks to the vision of brothers Adolph and John D. Spreckels, the Spreckels Organ is a pipe organ that can perform the full range of musical masterworks. Built by the Austin Organ Co. of Hartford, CT, the Spreckels Organ was deeded to the City on January 1, 1915 at the opening of the Panama-California Exposition and has played steadily ever since. The organ is maintained by L. W. Blackinton and Associates, Dale Sorenson, Curator.

All the additions and upgrades to the Spreckels Organ made possible by donations to the Drive to 5000 Campaign will be complete at the time of the celebration, and San Diego’s Spreckels Organ will have 5,005 pipes in 79 ranks, surpassing size the Heroes’ organ, in Austria’s Kufstein Fortress (built in 1931, 4,948 pipes).

A Special Performance: TAKING THE TITLE

Dr. Carol Williams is the current San Diego Civic Organist and Artistic Director of the Spreckels Organ Society in San Diego. To celebrate the prestigious title, she will play a special performance on April 23 called TAKING THE TITLE, A Celebration of the World’s Largest Outdoor Pipe Organ. 

The celebration begins at 7:00 p.m. with a grand processional of musicians and dignitaries through Balboa Park, followed at 7:30 p.m. by performances from San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton, Russ Peck, Soprano Diane Alexander, stage, film, and television actor Miles Anderson, and the world-premiere of a brand new composition by San Diego Civic Organist Dr. Carol Williams written especially for the occasion.

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion is located in the heart of San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park. Admission and parking are free. All ages are welcome as are friendly pets on leash.

Upcoming Spreckels Organ Society Special Events

Carol William’s David Bowie Tribute
The Spreckels Organ with Full Band
Sunday, May 29, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public

Summer International Organ Festival
June 27 – August 29, 2016
Concerts by top, professional organists from around the world each Monday night at 7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public.

The Spreckels Organ is sponsored by the City of San Diego, The Department of Park and Recreation, and the nonprofit Spreckels Organ Society, assuring that this civic treasure entertains music lovers throughout the year.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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