City organist stepping down

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SAN DIEGO — Carol Williams will step down as San Diego’s civic organist to move to Virginia, where her husband accepted a job offer, the Spreckels Organ Society announced Tuesday.

Her last concert on the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ will be Sept. 25 at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, according to a post on the society’s Facebook page.

The society and city of San Diego will conduct an international search for her successor and strive to continue the free, weekly Sunday afternoon concerts at the Organ Pavilion in the meantime, the statement said.

According to the society, Williams plans to perform more private concerts and work on her own compositions.

She is already planning to return a year from now to perform a tribute to organ-heavy 1960’s rock band The Doors at the 2017 International Summer Organ Festival.

Williams has served as San Diego Civic Organist since 2001, when she became the first woman in the world to hold the title.

Five years ago, her job appeared to be in jeopardy when a furor arose over a proposed 10-year contract with the city that would pay her a total of $286,000 — at a time when library hours and other basic city services were being cut in the wake of the recession.

City officials tried in vain to find alternative funding sources, and the contract was approved by the City Council in August 2011. She told the council members at the time that being the civic organist “fulfills my life’s ambition of bringing the concert organ to a wider audience.”

Williams, who also receives pay from the organ society, said she spends about 30 hours a week preparing for the Sunday shows.

The pipe organ and pavilion were a gift to San Diego from John and Adolph Spreckels for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, and the city has paid for an organist since 1926.