Spreckels Organ turns 100 with free New Year’s Eve concert

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SAN DIEGO – The outdoor Spreckels Organ in San Diego’s Balboa Park will turn 100 on New Year’s Eve and plans to celebrate with a free concert and fireworks on Wednesday evening.

The festivities kick off the centennial of the city’s Panama-California International Exposition that began on Jan. 1, 1915. The organ opened to the public the day before as a gift from sugar magnate John Spreckels, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Organizers recommend arriving at the organ pavilion at 5:30 p.m. for festivities leading up to the 7:30 show.

Highlights include a reenactment of Spreckels’ gift of the organ, premiere of new compositions, a bagpipe procession and a 150-voice choir led by San Diego Master Chorale music director John Russell.

Before the concert, City Council President Todd Gloria will accept the gift of pipes, including some that add new percussion effects. A grand processional march begins at 7 p.m. from the big fountain between the San Diego National History Museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

The organ marks its centennial on another big note too.

It has embarked on a fundraising campaign to increase the number of pipes from 4,518 to 5,000 so it can claim the title of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. That title is held by a 4,948-pipe outdoor organ at Kufstein Fortress in Austria.

Seating at the pavilion accommodates about 2,500; blankets and warm clothing are recommended. If you can’t make it Wednesday evening, concerts are given at 2 p.m. Sundays and on Monday evenings in summer.