Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus houses one of the finest examples of a late-romantic concert hall pipe organ in the United States. Built in the early 1930s by the Æolian-Skinner Company, a firm famous for the quality of craftsmanship and tonal design of its instruments, the Northrop organ is among the largest organs in the state of Minnesota, and is one of the largest intact and unaltered remaining instruments built by Æolian-Skinner. It represents the end of the historical era during which symphonic organs were at the peak of their popularity. The tonal qualities of the Northrop organ are particularly heard in the influence of G. Donald Harrison, the tonal designer who rose in prominence as a technical director at Æolian-Skinner during the early 1930s, and who voiced the instrument.
Previously housed in the ceiling of the auditorium, above the stage and behind the proscenium, the organ spoke through the proscenium's grillwork and was played from a four-manual console located in the orchestra pit. Completely unaltered, intact, and in its original condition after 75 years, the Northrop organ possesses enormous historical value and is one of the most important instruments in the Upper Midwest. Northrop is currently closed for a grand revitalization. It will re-open in fall 2013 as a new preeminent cultural and performing arts center and a vital center of academic distinction.
The Northrop organ, Æolian-Skinner's Opus 892, is huge-approximately 40 feet in height and occupying an area the size of the Northrop stage. The largest of the organ's 6,975 pipes are 32 feet tall; the smallest is the size of a pencil. The organ has 108 ranks of pipes (a single set of pipes, each with a organ pipes different pitch, that produces the same sound) and 81 organ stops. Like most organs, Opus 892 was customized to fit the space where it was installed.
The Northrop organ is unusual because it has never been changed. Despite the organ's need for restoration, its creators would still recognize the instrument's signature sound. This purity of the original sound was part of the reason the Organ Historical Society decided to present the Northrop organ with special citation for "exceptional historic merit worthy of preservation" in 1999.
Please consider making a gift to support the restoration of the Northrop organ.