Not a ‘fair’ organ

Posted: June 5th, 2015 | Civic Organist News, Columnists, Featured | 3 Comments

By Carol Williams | Civic Organist News

This year will be a first at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. The folks at the fair are going to celebrate the Centennial of Balboa Park and our great Spreckels Organ with a live organ performance.

The garden area of the fair is being transformed to commemorate Balboa Park and will also have a mini Spreckels Pavilion built. Wow, how fun!

As San Diego Civic Organist, I was approached to participate in the exhibit by performing mini organ concerts daily at 5 p.m.

My husband-manager and I took a visit to the fairgrounds and it’s hard to imagine how the vast empty parking lots would be filled with such mirth and merriment. The excitement of the staff was contagious as they walked us around pointing out their plans and the placement of everything. It didn’t take long before we were totally motivated and eager to be involved.

Throughout my career I have played in some remarkable places in the world, but this event may very well be one of the most amusing.

Dr. Carol Williams with the hybrid organ she is taking to the San Diego County Fair. (Courtesy Carol Williams)

Dr. Carol Williams with the hybrid organ she is taking to the San Diego County Fair.
(Courtesy Carol Williams)

So, now what about an organ? No way could the Spreckels pipe organ in Balboa Park take a road trip.

Well, this fair opportunity just happened to present itself at the same time my manager was setting up an affiliation with Rodgers Instruments for me. (I love how positive things happen together when you keep a positive attitude in life.) Rodgers is a branch of Roland — the worldwide respected leader in hybrid installations. They have the technology to easily combine pipes with electronics, which makes upgrading, expanding or the replacement of pipe organs very economical. So we asked if they were interested in lending us an instrument for the fair, and not only did they say yes, they decided to sponsor the event with their largest instrument.

A four manual of wow! Not just a classical organ, this instrument can do anything. I mean anything! The tonal resources of this organ are expanded with stereo-imaged pipe organ sounds, full orchestrations and percussion. Just wait until you hear me play this mammoth instrument at the fair.

Now I needed many days, even weeks to fully understand the intricacies of this powerful instrument, so Rodgers delivered the organ to our home for me. I own several of what I thought to be large instruments, including a 7-foot grand piano, but on delivery day, the crew stood in front of the house with a tape measure in hand, a really large crate — and a door too small.

Almost with tears in my eyes, I exclaimed, “But it’s a regular entrance door size!” They all just stared at me. This was not a good situation, however I was totally determined to get this thing in my home.

My husband — not wanting to face my wrath — with power-saw in hand and French doors at the ready, cut a large hole in the house. Oh my! In three hours we had two beautiful, 10-light french doors in place and a wonderful organ uncrated in my music room ready to play.

Now for the last two months I have been making friends with that Rodgers Infinity 484 and we like each other! The music I can play is marvelous and fascinating. Along with the usual classical stuff, she and I will perform great jazz, blues, honky tonk and thousands of combinations of orchestrations.

She, of course, goes traveling next week to her temporary new home in the Garden exhibit at the San Diego Fair and I will meet up with her and play a concert every day of the fair at 5 p.m.

Come along if you can.

—Civic Organist Carol Williams is proud to serve as an ambassador of San Diego’s arts and culture arena. Through her concert performances at home and abroad, Carol offers a fresh take on the classical organ concert. She is committed to illuminating San Diego’s colorful romance with the “King of Instruments,” always seeking to bring the organ to new audiences. For more information visit


  1. Merlyn Upton says:

    Good on you Carol, keep going because I am catching you up with my Viscount Prestige 100 , ( well I am on the ladder, maybe just up a few rungs ) All the very best from Weymouth in Dorset

  2. Eliel Lopez says:

    Carol; ! – This is absolutely amazing ! I can hardly wait to here it with you at the keys ! Looking forward to seeing you play at the fair.
    ~ Eliel Lopez

  3. Ron De Fields says:

    Good opportunity, Carol. We hope to visit you at the Fair. I expect that fair goers will be invited to Balboa Park to experience the Centennial Organ Festival there through the summer.

    Best Wishes!

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