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Families are invited to take part in a San Diego summer tradition as the Spreckels Organ Society presents the 2011 Summer International Organ Festival featuring famed organists from around the world.The free concerts take place each Monday evening beginning at 7:30 p.m. from June 20-Aug. 29 at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Children and pets are welcome.
The Summer International Organ Festival opens on June 20 with Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego Civic Organist and Artistic Director of the Spreckels Organ Society, joined by the House of Scotland Pipe Band, the Finest City Brass Herald Trumpets and the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral in a concert entitled “Celebration.”
To learn more about the Spreckels Organ Society or to see upcoming concerts, visit sosorgan.com or the Spreckels Organ Society Facebook fan page.
Trumpeters blew, bagpipes gusted, kilts whirled and the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world blasted last Monday night for the first concert in the Summer International Organ Festival, a San Diego tradition for nearly 25 years.If you've never been to the Monday night concerts, they're a really fun tradition for summer. Hundreds of people bring picnic dinners and snag their seats a bit early to enjoy the music, put on by the Spreckels Organ Society, the nonprofit that oversees the preservation and promotion of the organ in Balboa Park, which was given to the city nearly 100 years ago.Carol Williams, the city's civic organist as well as the society's artistic director, calls in her organist and musician pals from all over the world to come play the city's treasured organ.
The organ tradition in San Diego is rife with quirky details. Williams' salary has proven controversial in the conversations about city budgets. The Union-Tribune ran another story about that this weekend: ... the discussion of how much she is paid, who should pay her, and what art is worth in these potholed times has given the 97-year-old organ and its organist an uncomfortable role in San Diego's ongoing budgetary drama. Uncomfortable, but not necessarily unwelcome. "At first, it was daunting," Williams said of the flap over her contract. "But I have to say that the support from all over the world has been very moving. It makes me realize how much people love the venue. It isn't just about me. It's about the organ. I don't want to be San Diego's last civic organist."
SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved a 10-year, $286,000 contract for civic organist Carol Williams, who performs concerts every Sunday afternoon at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.The contract for Williams became controversial when it was introduced a few months ago amid a furor over budget proposals that would have cut library and recreation center hours in half. Those facilities were fully funded when the budget was finalized.The money for Williams, who will receive $23,865 this fiscal year, will come out of the general fund, despite requests by council members to find alternate funding sources. None of the alternatives worked out, according to Recreation Department officials.The pipe organ and pavilion were a gift to San Diego from John and Adolph Spreckels for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, and the city has paid for an organist since 1926. It's one of the largest outdoor pipe organs in the world.Williams, who also receives a salary from the Spreckels Organ Society, puts in about 30 hours per week preparing for the weekly shows.Her position as civic organist "fulfills my life's ambition of bringing the concert organ to a wider audience," she told the council.Williams said when she travels around the world, she's amazed at how many people know about the organ and have been to San Diego to hear it."This organ has a lot of friends," she said.Before voting, the council heard from several speakers who were all in favor of the proposal."My dad said if it isn't broken, don't fix it. So please renew the civic organist position for 10 years," said 12-year-old Suzy Webster, who also plays the organ herself.Councilman Todd Gloria called it "a civic treasure." Williams' salary is a tiny portion of the Recreation Department's budget, he said.The vote was 8-0 to approve the contract, but Councilman Carl DeMaio said he objected to using money from the general fund while the city was in a fiscal crisis."I do believe in the value of the organ but we are in a fiscal crisis and we have to re-align and in essence re-structure our budget," said DeMaio. "The burden is in the general fund when I believe that we should be looking to the arts and culture budget to make up the difference."A request by the council's Natural Resources and Culture Committee to explore alternative funding, especially from the Arts and Culture Commission, was "not respected" by city staff, he said.Councilman David Alvarez said he was disappointed that "we did not get an adequate response" from staff.Afterward, Gloria said his colleagues had done the right thing."I think that we have very large financial challenges in our city and this is not one of them," he said.Williams was elated after the vote. She told 10News, "When you're asking about organ music in a city, I know I feel like a luxury, but I hope that I can give pleasure and people can forget the tough times."Williams has been the civic organist since 2001.According to the Spreckels Organ Society, about 100,000 people attend organ concerts in the park each year.