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. Here’s our clip from our weekly segment with NBC7 San Diego:

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.”

I am the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with me on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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