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Concerts and Events

Humans are a funny breed. They commemorate important events by burying a collection of favorite objects in the ground for the purpose of forgetting about them for decades, if not centuries—similar to how they bury all their garbage at the city dump. As it turns out, the only people who care about what’s in the time capsule generations later, after it’s discovered, are historians and anthropologists, who are a breed unto themselves.

Locked time capsule_Parkeology_Balboa Park_Kate ClarkThis time capsule ritual is diametrically opposed to the canine burying behavior. Yes, we do bury things we consider special, particularly food treats and toys. But never to forget about them—merely to store them and keep them safe until later. And by “later,” I mean days or weeks, not centuries.

This is why I’m really digging Kate Clark’s new Parkeology project. She has organized a Time Capsule Ceremony this Friday, January 27, 6:30–8:30pm, to examine this odd human behavior and determine whether it’s more worthwhile to dig up time capsules within our own lifetimes, like any self-respecting pooch would.

With the help of Park Ranger Kim Duclo, Clark will open a 1999 time capsule from the Y2K era of the San Diego Park and Recreation Administration. The ceremony will take place in the Presidents Way parking lot, near the “Graffiti Bridge” pedestrian bridge. And the San Diego High School Drumline will provide the requisite drum roll for the unsealing.

The event will include an open forum, with time capsule expert Nicholas Yablon, and an anti-time capsule campfire. Attendees are invited to make a contribution to the anti-time capsule in the form of a note describing an object or experience they believe shouldn’t exist for future generations, such as shock collars, rabies shots, and alternative facts.

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In a recent survey, one of the most requested enhancements to our beloved Nate’s Point Dog Park was a separate area for small dogs. Speaking as a medium dog, I am quite familiar with the trouble small pooches can cause us larger pack members.

View of humans and dogs playing in Nate's Point dog park in Balboa ParkSo this Saturday, August 13, beginning at 10:30am, all interested dog owners or lovers can attend a special community event at Nate’s Point Dog Park to help determine how to best mark territory for large and small dogs at Nate’s Point.

The Balboa Park Conservancy is hosting this Nate’s Point Charrette (which is just a fancy word for a meeting to discuss a project’s design and plans) in order to collect as much community feedbark as possible before presenting design concepts to the City of San Diego and other Balboa Park stakeholders. The impetus for the project is a wad of leftover bones from Beneful’s Dream Dog Park prize awarded earlier this year.

The event on Saturday will also include a Paint with Paws Benefit to generate additional funds for future Nate’s Point enhancements. All canines in attendance can unleash their inner Van Dog and create masterpieces, using non-toxic paints, that will be suitable for framing or selling on eBay.

Light snacks, coffee, and dog treats will also be provided to help get everyone’s creative juices flowing for both the Painting with Paws activity and for drawing up plans to divide the dog park’s turf.

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I realize I’ve barked about the International Summer Organ Festival in a couple of posts already, but it bears repeating: free organ concerts by some of the world’s top-dog organists on what is now officially the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. Free. Here, in San Diego. Every Monday night at 7:30pm through August 29.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion, June 27 concert, photo by Mike CoxFor those who think organ music consists entirely of works by classical composers (Bach, Mozart, Handel, etc.), you are in for a big surprise if you attend next week’s performance on July 11. German-born organist and UCLA professor Christoph Bull, who is used to playing on the world’s largest church organ in Los Angeles (no bull), is presenting two in memoriam pieces he arranged for David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

What I personally find remarkable about this year’s roster of performers is that some aren’t settling for simply playing on the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ solo for the first time. For instance, on July 18, Daryl Robinson will bring some serious boom to his performance in the form of timpanist Jason Ginter, who accompanies Robinson on several pieces during the concert.

The following Monday, July 25, local favorite Dr. Alison Luedecke is joined by an entire pack of musicians, the Millennia Consort. Together they will perform a variety of works for organ, brass quintet, and percussion by classical and modern composers.

Last but never least, closing out the annual summer series in style on August 29, Dr. Carol Williams will be accompanied by another organist on another organ! This I’ll have to see to believe my ears. Thankfully all concerts in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion are 100 percent pooch friendly. For those unable to attend in person, all International Summer Organ Festival Concerts are streamed live at Ustream (just like the free Sunday afternoon organ concerts). You can also watch select past concerts there as well.

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As any of my readers over 40 can tell you, before there was social media there was actual social media as in media (music, art, film, theater, etc.) that created stimulating opportunities for social interaction. This is how packs would form, find new members, reconnect, and reestablish old bonds.

Twilight in the Park concert series performance, Organ Pavilion, Balboa ParkFor more than 35 years, Balboa Park’s Twilight in the Park concert series has continued that tradition every summer by bringing together bipeds and their leashed friends from throughout the community to experience free musical performances inside the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The family-friendly events are designed to encourage singing (or barking) along, dancing, and reminiscing over old favorites being performed.

Beginning June 21, audiences will be treated to a different style or genre of music every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 6:30 to 7:30pm. The new faces (real faces, not just avatars or profile photos) that each type of music draws present a perfect opportunity to expand one’s social network.

The wide range of music styles coming up over the next few weeks includes contemporary blues by 145th Street (June 22); country rock from Emerald River (June 23); the cat’s meow of vintage rock and roll courtesy of the Cat-illacs (June 28); patriotic tunes and marches by the 300th Army Band (July 5); salsa, bolero, cha cha cha by Groupo Musical Relax de Tijuana (July 6); and more golden oldies from the Elvis Tribute band, Suspicious Minds (July 12).

Of course that’s not to say today’s electronic social media still doesn’t have its place (I would be one lost puppy without my iPaw!) — what better way to invite your entire network to join you for some after-work fun?

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There is so much going on at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion this summer that I’ve decided to pitch a pup tent inside the historic music venue so I don’t miss a single note. The steady stream of summer concerts at the home of “The World’s Largest Outdoor Pipe Organ” officially kicks off with the final installment of the Parkeology event series on Friday, June 10, from 8 to 10:15pm.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion, close up view of organ pipesTitled “Organ for the Senses: Feeling, Seeing & Sounding the Spreckels Pipe Organ,” the experimental music concert unleashes newly commissioned electro-acoustic compositions by local and nationally renowned musicians on all the senses. The 10-minute compositions are vibrationally driven (rather than melodic) to highlight the physical properties of the organ itself. A live seismograph projection will allow the audience to “see” the physical vibrations of the audio during each piece.

So for the first time in the 100-year history of the Spreckels Organ, audience members will not only be able to hear, but also to feel and see the vibrations that the organ’s massive pipes produce. Tickets for this once-in-lifetime concert start at FREE.

Launched in February 2016, Parkeology is an interactive public event series created by Art Ranger Kate Clark that digs up little-known aspects of Balboa Park. So far it has scratched the complex underbelly of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and uncovered a theatrical nudist colony that once inhabited Zoro Garden. The unique five-part project also includes a TV series, podcast, and youth program in collaboration with the San Diego Art Institute.

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I double dog dare you to name one instance where you can still get two for the price of one when that price is always free. Give up? How about a free Twilight in the Park concert followed by a free movie as part of the new Outdoor International Film Series every Thursday night during the month of July?

Outdoor International Film Series 2015, Balboa Park, Bollywood dancersFor those of us old enough to remember the double feature at the drive-in movie theater, the baseball game double header, and the double-scoop mint and chip ice cream cone at the drugstore, it’s nice to know some treats still double your pleasure and ask for nothing in return. Leave it to the many organizations honoring the Balboa Park Centennial to do just that.

Beginning July 9, families attending the free Thursday night Twilight in the Park concert featuring Stoney B. Blues, starting at 6:30pm in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, will want to keep their haunches in their seats for the second feature of the night, Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Bounding with energy and music, the colorful film presents a mash up of Bollywood “greatest hits” moments.

Co-presented by Pacific Arts Movement and SDG&E, the other films in this summer’s Outdoor International Film Series are

Messi (July 16) — On the heels of the Dixie Express swing music performance, Messi is a unique documentary/biopic that explores what makes the Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi the best player (on two legs) in the world.

The Italian Character (July 23) — The perfect cultural smorgasbord for everyone in your pack, the evening starts with a Centennial Concert Preview family day event at 5:30pm, hosted by San Diego Park and Rec, followed by a San Diego Civic Dance performance, and capped off by a look inside Rome’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one of the 10 best orchestras in the world.

Collection of Short Films (July 30) — Last but not leashed, Uncle Bob & the Earth Movers serve as the opening act to a night of short films from the San Diego Asian, Latino, and Italian Film Festivals (the film series co-sponsors), ideal for the attention-span impaired.

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Spreckels Organ Pavilion at Night, International Summer Organ Festival 2015While dozens of exhibitions, events, concert series, and performances are taking part in the Balboa Park Centennial Celebrations, only a rare breed of organizations or venues in the Park can claim to be celebrating their own centennial. So when the International Summer Organ Festival adds the word “Centennial” to the name of its annual concert series, it isn’t merely piggy-backing on the year-long recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the 1915 Panama California Exposition.

Representing one of the few original buildings still standing in Balboa Park from that era, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion officially opened the 1915 Exposition with its inaugural concert on New Year’s Eve 1914. Maintaining its pedigree as a central component of the 1915 fair, the Organ Pavilion takes center stage in 2015 with a lineup of top dog organists from around the world performing Monday nights at 7:30pm through August 31 as part of the Centennial International Summer Organ Festival.

As usual, the pack-friendly free series will broaden everyone’s expectations and understanding of organ music with a wide diversity of styles, genres, and special guest accompaniment. For example, next Monday’s concert features every San Diego pooch’s favorite Civic Organist, Dr. Carol Williams. She’ll perform a selection of her own modern compositions as part of a release party for her new CD “Just Carol—Compositions.”

The following Monday, July 6, Christian Elliot, who was named “Organist of the Year” in 2009 by the American Theatre Organ Society, will cap off a long Independence Day Holiday weekend with a variety of claw-tapping, howl-along patriotic tunes. On July 13, prolific music composer A. D. Miller presents among other original compositions his “Fanfare for a New Century,” commissioned for the 100-year anniversary of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Other weekly installments include local rising pups (July 20), organists from Europe and Canada, a Grammy winner, returning favorites, the always popular Silent Movie Night (Aug. 24), and a finale celebrating “100 Years of Broadway” (Aug. 31) during which Dr. Carol Williams will be joined by some very special guest performers.

For lazy dogs who can’t muster the energy to come see the weekly performances in person, every concert can be streamed live on Ustream (where past concerts are archived for the next 100 years).

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With the announcement of all the other great concert series in Balboa Park this summer in celebration of the Centennial, it wouldn’t surprise me if one other long-running music series in the Park is feeling like the runt of the litter.

For 14 summers, the Bird Park Concert Series has brought howling good shows to Morley Field’s Bird Park, making the picturesque North Park neighborhood a popular Saturday destination well before the first craft brewery opened here. In fact, this year’s five-concert line up promises to bring such intoxicating tunes, concert goers won’t even mind the city park’s alcohol ban.

The series kicks off this Saturday, June 13, at 5:30pm with the high-energy folk rock band, A Mayfield Affair. Like all bands invited to perform in Bird Park each summer, their music is danceable and pack friendly. Leashed pooches are also welcome and will be in good company, since this is, after all, North Park, home to two of Balboa Park’s dog parks.

Every other Saturday, a new act will hit the stage, overlooking the municipal golf course and downtown skyline. On June 27, The BlueFrog Band presents its unique fusion of blues-folk-rock music, followed by another feel-good rock and roll band, DNT, on July 11. The remaining concerts in the series include Piel (electronic-techno) on July 25 and the Scott Martin Band (Latin jazz) on August 8.

All concerts run until 7:30pm, giving folks plenty of time to sniff out the many restaurants and tasting rooms that have sprouted up along 30th Street since the Bird Park Concert Series started.

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At the risk of sounding like a one-trick pony, over the next few weeks I will be barking about free summer concerts in Balboa Park A LOT. Joining such annual favorites as the Twilight in the Park and the International Summer Organ Festival series are several special concert events in honor of the Balboa Park Centennial.

One such series, Music in Park, will be turning my favorite new hang out, the Plaza de Panama, into the Park’s hottest gathering spot on Thursday nights (7:30-8:30pm) and Saturday afternoons (1-2pm), starting June 6.

Each week, families and their pooches can catch a wide variety of free music and dance performances while lounging in the colorful new furnishings that were unveiled in April. Multi-taskers who have the attention span of a flea will be able to plug into their favorite social media distractions while enjoying the show thanks the Plaza’s free Wi-Fi.

In addition, the Plaza de Panama is also playing host to three major concert events this month:

San Diego Makes Music (June 14, 3:00pm)

The Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra will present a free afternoon of classical music as performed by top-dog concertmasters from around the country. Nipping at their heels during a special play-along opportunity will be local amateur musicians from the audience.

China Tour Bon Voyage Concert (June 18, 7:30pm)

Eighty-two of the San Diego Youth Symphony’s most advanced students, accompanied by members of the San Diego Symphony, help celebrate the Balboa Park Centennial before embarking on a two-week concert tour of China.

Make Music Day San Diego (June 21)

For the first time ever, San Diego joins more than 700 cities worldwide to celebrate Make Music Day. Free and open to every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, two-legged or four-legged — Make Music Day San Diego will include unique musical performances and educational programming for pups of all ages.

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I must admit, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my tail around the trendy concept of “activated spaces.” As a canine, activating a space is a rather simple process, mostly a matter of bladder control.

However, I’m certain when the largest open space on Balboa Park’s Central Mesa, the Plaza de Panama, becomes officially “activated” on Wednesday, April 22, from 12 noon to 4pm, I’ll gain a new appreciation for the buzzword’s meaning.

After all, at 1pm, San Diego’s top dog himself, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, will be on hand to do the honors of unveiling the magical transformation of the former parking lot bordered by The San Diego Museum of Art, the Timken Museum of Art, the House of Charm, and the House of Hospitality.

To experience just what an activated space is all about that afternoon, the public is invited to enjoy special hands-on activities hosted by various Balboa Park cultural organizations, performances by San Diego Civic Dance Arts, and more importantly, eminently edible chow from popular food trucks, Chop Soo-ey and Tacos La Mezcla.

Attendees at the special event will also be among the first to break in the Plaza’s new amenities, which include additional tables and chairs, umbrellas, benches, games, and an “outdoor living room” and lawn for lounging. And while they are doing so, they might want to thank Southwest Airlines and the Project for Public Spaces, The San Diego Foundation, and the Balboa Park Conservancy for making it all possible.

I’m sure once I get a whiff of what a vibrant gathering space in the heart of the nation’s largest urban cultural park is, it will quickly become my favorite hangout for free Wi-Fi, unsolicited petting, and food scraps galore!

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