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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

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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Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, Twilight in the Park, Babe and PudgeBabe and Pudge write: Dear Cosmos, Ever since you featured us at a Twilight in the Park concert event seven years ago, we feel like we’ve seen and heard everything. Will the annual concert series give us any new reasons to dust off our poodle skirts and hush puppies this summer?

Cosmos: I wasn’t aware one needed “reasons” to break out poodle skirts and hush puppies. For those who do need them, I can think of at least 35 reasons — one each for the number of years the Twilight in the Park concert series has been treating families of all shapes and stripes to free evening concert events at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Among those reasons, one of the best is select concerts this summer will feature a full hour of special thematic activities prior to the main act in honor of the Balboa Park Centennial. 

For example on Thursday June 18, everyone in your pack can sniff out an antique car display, barbershop quartet music, dancing lessons, and information booths on Balboa Park history one hour before the 6:30pm Hillcrest Wind Ensemble concert. And then on Wednesday July 1, the Chula Vista Mariachi concert will be preceded by a performance of ballet folklorico dancers.

Later in the month, on July 23, the San Diego Park and Recreation Department, a co-organizer for the entire series, will present fun activities for every pup in your litter at a special Family Day event prior to the San Diego Civic Dance performance.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be reasons to attend the many other concerts in the series. In fact, I see at least two prime opportunities to slip on your poodle skirts during the month of July: on July 8 when Breez’n performs its eclectic range of classic rock and R&B, and then on July 15 when Cool Fever presents favorite dance tunes from the Motown and Swing eras.

Be sure to scout out the complete Twilight in the Park calendar to discover even more reasons to enjoy these lively community gatherings.

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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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It should come as no surprise that San Diego’s illustrious pedigree as a military town is interwoven with Balboa Park’s history as the cultural epicenter of San Diego. In fact, during World War II, the Park proudly served as a base for training and convalescence of service members. Seventy years later, Balboa Park is still home to the Bob Wilson Naval Hospital, a top dog medical facility in the region.

Continuing this rich tradition, seven Balboa Park museums will once again offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families, including Reserves and the National Guard, through Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

Presenting a number of special exhibitions in celebration of 2015, the participating museums include

This means any dog tag-wearing service member can bring his or her pack (up to five members) to see such Centennial–worthy exhibitions as 7 Billion Others at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 at The San Diego Museum of Art, Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss at the San Diego History Center, and Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum at the Mingei International Museum … to name a few.

But that’s only half the story. Seven other museums in San Diego County, including the nearby New Children’s Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown are also on the itinerary. For a full list of participating museums in California, sniff around the website of the National Endowment for the Arts, which co-sponsors this program.

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