Archive for January, 2011

San Diego’s Spreckles Pipe Organ & Hord’s Woman of Tehuantepec

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Balboa Park's Spreckles Pipe Organ

Sundays at 2 pm in San Diego’s Balboa Park the Spreckles pipe organ reverberates with wonderful volume.  No wishy-washy or tentative selections here.  The organ is the largest pipe organ in the world with 4518 pipes, so naturally not a wimp.  It was commissioned by sugar magnate John D. Spreckels for the Panama-California Exposition in 1914 and donated to the park.

The first chord Dr. Carol Williams, the Civic Organist struck on a recent January Sunday woke up all us hot, drowsy tourists.  The little two year old Russian girl next to me held her pretzel in midair and took a minute to get it to her mouth while the young boy in front of me covered his ears with his hands for about the same minute.  Dr. Williams must have hit every bass note and every pedal.

Organ music, however glorious, is not my thing.  It always brings to mind an image of J. S. Bach’s 20 children running up and down a narrow staircase in some cold house in Germany. Or roller skating rinks in the 1950’s. Or ancient ladies playing in Presbyterian churches and hitting a few wrong notes.  Many have tried to educate me to the lofty intricacies of organ music, but I remain illiterate.

Donal Hord's Woman of Tehuantepec

So I left the organ pavilion and wandered up to the Prado to see if I could get a picture of Donal Hord’s 1935 limestone “Woman of Tehuantepec” without a lot of tourists in the picture.  I waited for a break in the small crowd of children and dogs enjoying the sounds and splashes of the fountain’s water on this hot Sunday. The sculpture was done for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition and celebrates water. Even then, water was a luxurious commodity.

Saxophone and organ in concert

When I walked back to the Organ Pavilion, a saxophonist had joined the organist and they were playing “Georgia” and then “The Girl from Ipanema.”  Smooth.

A large dog in the row in front of me was more interested in the crowd behind it.  Maybe it sat patiently through the classics in the first part of the concert and now wanted some space and exercise no matter how mellow the second half of the concert was.

Had enough!

Good dog!

UCSD Art, Milton’s Paradise Lost as Alexis Smith’s Snake Path in The Stuart Collection

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, January 8 — February 12, 2011,  is exhibiting photos, drawings, and documentation from the Stuart Collection of public art on the campus of UCSD.  It’s an interesting look at the art in an indoor setting.  You don’t have to hike the campus.

I’ve walked that campus since its dirt and construction beginnings. Now the art pops up unexpectedly or is hidden between trees where you need to go hunting for it, or blends in to the mature shrubs and plants.

Alexis Smith's Snake Path

Alexis Smith's Snake Path

Bronze of Theodore Geisel, UCSD's Geisel Library

My favorite is Alexis Smith’s Snake Path, a twisting uphill path beginning with a huge copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost. When I first saw  Snake Path, you could actually SEE the snake path.  The path circles the Garden of Eden, a small garden with a bench for contemplation and an apple tree.  I’ve even seen an apple or two.  Now the landscaping hides a lot of the reptile and its sneaky climb and the apple tree is winter bare and the bench unnoticeable.  I guess that’s appropriate.

The snaky head licks its way up the hill to the Geisel library, the university’s main treasure house of knowledge.  There is no entrance to the library at the point where the snake ends. The knowledge of good and evil is inaccessible there.  A metaphor of some kind, no doubt. I like it.

Amos Robinson's WE-E-E-E-E-E

But you can find a newer bronze of Theodore Geisel a little way beyond the snake. He makes his own comments on good and evil in his books.

Along one of the roads leaving the campus, in front of Scripps Memorial Hospital, this bright red bicycle and rider were slowly turning in the breeze, far removed from Milton.  A better way to spend a sunny California day.