Weather is no object

Posted: March 6th, 2015 | Civic Organist News, Columnists, Featured | No Comments

Dr. Carol Williams | Civic Organist News

Come rain, hail, sleet or snow … there’s a concert every Sunday.

Twenty years ago, I had never heard of San Diego. I was living in the south of England, with frequent drives back to visit family in Wales, attending school and lessons for music and organ, and enjoying the old English village life — with gossip flourishing, the local vicar checking in, thatched roof cottages, narrow cobblestone streets, the town green and full of mums with prams (baby carriages) watching over children playing, and evening gatherings at the local pub.

Dr. Carol Williams

Dr. Carol Williams

I know this sounds like 100 years ago but, like many Brits, this was my childhood. Think Downton Abbey (without the money). Afternoon tea, dressing for dinner, watching the Queen’s speech on the telly on Christmas afternoons — so many customs steeped in time.

I do have my moments of homesickness.

Now though, I have come to know San Diego as the largest small town in

America. It truly encompasses facets of my past, although things look and sound different. It is surprising how people pull together and instinctively find that small-town feel in a city with well over a million residents.

I remember the blackout we had here in 2011. Much of the southwestern states were without electricity (by the way, we’d get power cuts quite often in England). My husband and I were living next to Balboa Park at the time. It was rather warm inside and I noticed neighbors coming out to the street to stroll and mingle with others. We joined them, enjoying the evening like people must have done in the 1800s, without TV or radio. Some people would normally be out at this time, but this night it seemed like everyone was there, all taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a sit or a walk out in the moonlit, cool night air. It was wonderful and enchanting.

These are the people of the San Diego that I have come to know and love every Sunday afternoon since 2001.

As Civic Organist, I proudly carry the tradition inspired by John and Adolph

Spreckels, who built the Spreckels Organ for “the enjoyment of all the people of San Diego and the world.” Those words are engraved on a plaque near the Spreckels Organ Pavilion stage.

I see their vision of this organ come true every Sunday. I think it should reach all nationalities, all religions, all genres of music, and fill all aspects of life for everyone; give them something they can take away, a spiritual experience; something for the soul.

After all, that is where music reaches people: to raise their consciousness. Even if for a short moment.

March will be bustling for us at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Our next Family Festival Day will take place Sunday, March 15 at 2 p.m. Lots of activities, great family fun and music for all.

Before enjoying the concert that day, I encourage you to visit the Thursday Club’s 85th annual rummage sale. It will be open from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Balboa Park Activity Center, located at 2145 Park Blvd., and the Spreckels Organ Society is one of the honored recipients of the proceeds generated from this year’s sale. Perhaps donate some of your old stuff or go for a browse. A nice outing.

If you like to sing or just listen to great singing, San Diego Sings! will take the Organ Pavilion stage March 21 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Choral Consortium of San Diego joins the Spreckels Organ Society to present 20 of San Diego’s finest choral groups in live performance. Enjoy each choir performing on their own and then joining the 1,000 voices of the combined choirs, accompanied by the Spreckels Organ, for the world-premiere of “How Can I Keep From Singing?” by Bradley Nelson.

Hear choral ensembles of all ages perform a variety of musical styles, from pops, barbershop, classical, musical theater, and gospel. It’s a grand day for singing!

Lastly, remember there is a free concert every Sunday at 2 p.m. on our soon-to-be largest outdoor pipe organ in the world (Austria holds that title at the moment). After each Sunday afternoon concert, you are welcome to tour the building and view the historical photos in the lower hall and peer into the pipe chambers upstairs. You see, the pavilion itself is the actual organ case.

Come say hello!

—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

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