Based in Allied Gardens, organist Russ Peck has had a long association with the San Diego Symphony, as well as performing locally at Symphony Hall (once the Fox Theatre, an ornate movie palace) on the Hall’s 1923 Robert Morton theater pipe organ, which has four keyboards, about 45 ranks (each rank being a set of pipes), and sound effects ranging from trumpets to castanets.
“It’s at least six times the size of a neighborhood theater organ,” says Peck. “It gives you a virtually unlimited palette at your command. The sound can be big or small, dark or happy. It’s surround sound. Because of the organ pipes, and the acoustics of the hall, the sound just swirls around you. It will surprise people who haven’t heard it before.”
Though he also plays piano and percission, the organ remains his passion. “A seminal moment was when I was about eleven years old and visited my aunt in Montana. She and her husband were ranchers. Their ranch house had a Hammond organ. I played it and went bonkers. Though I had been studying the piano, I wanted an organ. When we finally got our first Hammond organ, about a year later, I was in bliss.”