Taking a nice stroll through the Balboa Park neighboring the world-famous San Diego Zoo is refreshing. As we enter the park, there is an elegant building in beige color that stretches on both sides in the shape of wings. There is a three-story structure behind the stage. Inside, there are 4,518 organ pipes weighing 100,000 pounds.
The electronic pipe organ was settled in 1915 for the World Expo commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal. The Spreckels brothers who ran a sugar company at that time bought this precious and expensive organ after the exhibition. They donated $33,500(more than $855,085 today) for this organ, and donated $66,500 (more than $1,697,407 today) for the pavilion. Also, the Spreckels brothers gave this organ as a gift to ‘the people of San Diego’ and ‘the people of the world’ on December 31, 1914. All concerts at the Spreckels Organ Theatre are free to the public in accordance with the 1915 Deed of Gift whereby the brothers John and Adolph Spreckels gave the organ and the pavilion to the City of San Diego. How grateful and thoughtful people they were! Whenever our family and I visit the pavilion in Balboa Park, we always appreciate it for their wonderful sprit. We also think that this beautiful place should be preserved well by all people.
The theatre is nearly 100 years old now. The organ concert is held at 2:00pm every Sunday regardless of the weather and condition. The first lead performer, Dr. Humphrey Stewart operated it for 15 years. Dr. Carol Williams who was born in England has been in charge since 2001. Last Sunday, I enjoyed listening to familiar songs such as ‘The Sound of Music’ she played. When both hands and feet of the performer press the keyboard, the wires are connected by a large pipe at the back of the stage, the sound resonates with the grandeur.
Today is also a performance day for the middle and high school students who are the dream tree of our future. These teenagers must have been proud to be on the stage with their patience and hard work, not indulging in computer and electronic games. Also, I wonder how difficult it has been for their parents who discovered and trained their children's talents. Sometimes small scholarships are given to students who play the organ by the Spreckels Organ Society.
Looking around, about 2,000 spectators are sitting on iron benches or in their own portable chairs. After most of the sun is set, the wind is getting cold. We need a knee blanket, too. Large and small dogs with their families are sitting together. Sometimes, we could see a beautiful bride in a white veil with a groom and his friends. They usually stand near the pillars of the pavilion's wing and smile happily while taking wedding photos. Airplanes fly above the roof of the theatre over the clear blue sky. It is very peaceful here.
One day, I heard that one of the two electronic pipe organs on the display at the World Expo was sold to someone in San Francisco but unfortunately, no one knows the news about the organ so far. The most joyful thing is that the non-profit organization for ‘the Spreckels Organ Society’ was formed in 1988. Its mission is, “to preserve, program, and promote the Spreckels Organ as a world treasure for the people, and to work cooperatively with the City in order to fulfill and expand upon the promise of regular free concert at the City's organ theatre. The Spreckels Organ Society is a volunteer-driven 501-C-3 non profit(Tax ID 33-0299072) for anyone to join”.
I could see that there is a mobile shop selling CDs and souvenirs at the entrance. The volunteers collect donations in small boxes. I placed a little donation today.
* Beginning March 22, 2020 and continuing through the all-clear of COVID Phase 4, the concerts are offered free on YouTube, with a premiere every Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM.
* In 2021, the Society is planning the 34th season of the San Diego international Organ Festival.
올해도 제 글을 읽어주신 월드코리안 독자님과 신문사 가족들께 새해인사를 드립니다.
경북 사범대 화학과 졸업
월간 ‘피플 오브 샌디에이고’ 주필 역임, 칼럼니스트로 활동
방일영문화재단 지원금 대상자(2013년) 선정돼
세 번째 수필집 ‘날아라 부겐빌리아 꽃잎아’ 발행