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San Diego's Civic Organist Makes His Official Spreckels Debut

Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez appears in this undated photo.
Spreckels Organ Society
Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez appears in this undated photo.
San Diego's Civic Organist Makes His Official Spreckels Debut
San Diego's New Civic Organist Makes His Spreckels Debut GUEST: Raúl Prieto Ramírez, civic organist, City of San Diego

. San Diego is one of only two U.S. cities with a civic organist Spanish organist Raul Priyanto Ramirez has been in the position since December. He calls San Diego's Spreckels Oregon a dream. The instrument is so flexible he says he's able to play rock music arrangements. Most organs can't. Ramirez spoke with producer Michael Lipkin earlier this year. Raul you've played Oregon's all around the world. What if anything makes the Spreckels organ unique voice absolutely unique. Just starting by the fact that it's the biggest the largest outdoor going in the world and say outdoor makes it really unique because thinking about the pipe organ it has no amplification no electronics is all. More than 5000 pipes from just a few inches to 32 foot loans size. Here is the whole building is the instrument on our doors to make it sound outdoors. That's a really pretty crazy. Makes things really unique. In fact I always thought this instrument was never going to work fine. And then one day I was just playing a concert here for years like all day and I was so impressed I thought Wow these not only words it's just amazing. And then change to make it so flexible. I like to do arrangements of rock music and things like that for fun and soundtracks and things like that. And in most organs it doesn't work. So I just do at home and in this organ everything I have been doing for fun works so consistently. So it's just like a dream. What about the organ makes it easier to translate pop music to the organ. That doesn't necessarily work for other organs. There was people need to know about this when we think about rock music the beginnings of rug music keyboards piano was transferring to the organ when they are using like an organ with an electronic organ. It was actually the humming. If you're familiar with the human organs human organs is the electronic version of what we call the other organ the organ is when they are making these big entertainment events with silent movie and dancing and all that the piano for the large theaters the piano were too soft so the beanstalk organs behind the screens but they don't sound like church or as they made themselves like back. They are really aggressive. Tremolo and they are really sounds like band. DCMST woman here Sbraga slogan It's fantastic makes me a classic old and where you can play any of the great classical music Anahi out there with all the percussion. Yes you know I have more on Tim percussions Krauss by the other half team pennies of triangles half Castanea to have all that. So whatever I wanna do. There's always one of those sounds there to make their percussion part of the band. And with rock music you have to be very creative. But actually the Engström and have the resources there and these old pipes is nothing electronic and that's so amazing. What about classic music. What are some of the songs that or the pieces that you're really excited to play on this organ. You know I have this theory that music is music and mother of all different periods in history given the different kind of dials. But the music is music itself and people understand any kind of music you don't need to be well educated to understand. Back back east like I like to describe it like a train huge train when you start running it just keep going and going and tribe you. And just to give you an idea. When I played bogy my first konser. Some people thought well if you start playing back in the park because it's Haldor there are some tourists they will not like back so much work when they bought it. This second more bolted were both covered by common sense which is very popular but also Bach last week is the same thing people really liked back very much so there is no problem with classical music for. For people I always say the way you played and I have the feeling that for some reason people like when I play those kind of music they find and many people come to greet me after the concert and they say they really got it. They have never heard any piece from ticketing Hundert and after explaining them I play that they enjoy a lot. What do you think it is about the organ as an instrument that some people might listen to classical music in the Symphony Hall and it doesn't necessarily appeal to them but they listen to Bach they listen to some of these classical pieces and the organ and they fall in love. Well I don't know the instrument itself is really fascinating. You have to think they say the other things tuning is boring and that come from a very very sad approach during 20th century and it lost the track with the concert hall that did that the 19th century when a rock concert hall had an organ and then during the mid 20th century was only in charge it and then people relate. People lost track with church they lost track with the organ but actually they forget that the organ was invented in the 300 before Christ. Over 2000 years already and it was invented like a fancy machine. And he was so popular that the Romans they put in the theatres so early Christians were having be eaten by lions. They were playing the organ and that's what makes the history a little bit funny you know. Then the church adopted the organ over a thousand years after it was invented. But also watching the concert hall in London played during boxing in the Royal Albert Hall. So basically becoming an early 20th century late 19th century like the instrument for making music in larger spaces. So the order actually is the most complex machine machine ever built by humanity since the 363 before cries when they invaded Alexandria until late 19th century. So humanity could do nothing more complex thing. So when you think about an organ like that incredible machine like over 2000 years that humanity could build and that was not meant to be for war or killing anybody that was not built to make money that was built to make music. So that gives you the idea or pop music are the most expensive and complex of over 2000 years built by humanity was that instrument. So give you a try and come to the park. That was San Diego civic organist or Errol appreciate all Ramirez speaking with producer Michael Lipkin. Ramirez will be playing this Sunday and most Sundays at the Spreckels organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. At 2:00 p.m..

Raúl Prieto Ramírez, San Diego’s new civic organist, wasn’t always a believer in the city’s Spreckels organ, the largest outdoor pipe organ.

“I always thought this instrument was never going to work,” he said.

Before Ramírez played here for the first time four years ago, he was skeptical the organ’s sound would carry in the open air. But after that guest performance, he changed his tune.


“The instrument is so flexible. I like to do arrangements of rock music and things like that for fun and in most organs it doesn’t work, so I just do it at home,” he said. “And in this organ, everything I have been doing for fun works so consistently, so it’s just like a dream.”

Ramírez was tapped to be the city’s new organist in December. He played his inaugural show in the position in early January. He said the Spreckels organ is a mix between a classic organ and a more modern theater organ with lots of percussion, giving it that wide range. For his first show, he played a mix of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre,” Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Ramírez will play most Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. He joins KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday with more about his career and his new role.