By editor, 12/11/2017 - 12:21

The splendor and majesty of the Forbes Pipe Organ will reverberate through Harman Hall on New Years Eve at the Performing Arts Center as the San Luis Obispo Symphony plays The Music of the Night; from Baroque to Broadway with a diverse and lively repertoire of Broadway, film medleys and classical organ pieces at the POPS concert on December 31st at 7:30 p.m.

The performance, with the most extensive organ repertoire ever for a concert, highlights Broadway’s 30th Anniversary run of Phantom of the Opera, Handel’s complex Baroque Organ Concerto Op. 4, No. 6 and Saint-Saen’s robust Symphony No. 3 Finale. Adding to the evening’s delight, the orchestra will play popular music from blockbuster musicals The Sound of Music, Carousel and Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The concert is sure to be fun for the entire family and a great way to start 2018. Tickets are available at

“It’s such a treat to have an organ of the quality and magnitude to use for our POPS concert,” said Music Director Andrew Sewell. “These instruments are in the great halls of Europe where the music was written and debuted. We are so fortunate to have one of the finest organ instruments here in San Luis Obispo. The music the orchestra and our soloist, Paul Woodring, play for New Years Eve will literally shake the audience to the core.”

The Forbes Pipe Organ History l Paul Woodring 
The Forbes Pipe Organ was the vision of Clifton Swanson, former Music Director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony, founder of Festival Mozaic and Chair of the Music Department at Cal Poly University, and John and Barbara Hartman. They thought it would be a distinctive addition to the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) that was in planning on the Cal Poly campus. 

It was the Hartman’s who were the first donors of funds for the Fisk Opus 129 pipe organ that was built into the design of the PAC. Tragically, the Hartman’s died in an accident, leaving the organ in question. It was in honor of their parents that the Hartman heirs continued their legacy by donating funds to keep the dream alive.

As funds for the PAC increased, the organ came into question again when donors Burt and Candace Forbes stepped forward to solidify the purchase. No detail was sparred in the design and materials of the instrument. It took Fisk a year to build the 20-ton instrument, called “the king of instruments.” 
On June 19, 2006, the organ’s 2,767 pipes were delivered into the eager hands of a crew of enthusiastic “free unloaders” who took the cherished cargo from the vans, carried it into the theater and carefully unwrapped each pipe for installation.

The pipes for the Forbes Pipe Organ were forged by hand from tin/lead sheet metal. The organ’s casework was built from mahogany, key coverings made of cow bone and the sharps crafted from ebony. The stop knobs were made from cocobolo, a tropical hardwood similar to Rosewood.

Reassembly took Fisk technicians about six weeks. Then for the next nine months, at least two, sometimes four, technicians tuned and voiced the instrument. The result is strikingly beautiful.

Organ soloist for the evening’s performance is Paul Woodring, the curator and University organist at Cal Poly. Woodring specialized in organ performance at Cal State Northridge, studying under Sam Swartz and David Britton. While there, he won several prestigious awards, including first prize in the Western Regional American Guild of Organists Competition. He then studied organ and harpsichord in Vienna under Otto Bruckner and Elfriede Stadlmann.

The evening’s performance weaves a wonderful mix of American composed Broadway and film favorites with exceptional classical pieces from international composers that feature the organ. This world-class repertoire includes:

Richard Rodgers                  Carousel Waltz from Carousel                    
George Frideric Handel        Organ Concerto Op. 4 No. 6 in B flat                    
Andrew Lloyd Webber          Phantom of the Opera (organ solo)                    
Andrew Lloyd Webber          Phantom of the Opera Medley                    
Franz Lehar                          La Vedova Allegra, Valzer (Tace il labbro) from the Merry Widow    
Charles-Marie Widor            Symphony No.5 V. Toccata (organ solo)            
Nino Rota                             Valse Brillante and Valzer del Commiato from Il Gattopardo La Bambilli
Alan Menken                        The Little Mermaid Medley                          
Richard Rodgers                  Sound of Music Symphonic Picture                
Camille Saint-Saens            Symphony No. 3 Finale 

At 9 p.m., toward the end of the evening’s performance, the audience will watch the ball drop to bring in a new year. Further information and music videos on the evening’s repertoire can be found on the POPS Page on the Symphony website and its Facebook Page.

Concert Tickets and Pricing
Tickets are now on sale at or by calling the box office at 805-756-4849. New Years Eve POPS ticket prices range from $25 to $90.