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Minneapolis Convention Center Kimball Organ

Minneapolis Convention Center Kimball Organ Stop Demonstration

Guest Blogger Brian DuSell writes about the Minneapolis Convention Center Organ. It is an extraordinary Kimball Organ now in storage. Watch and listen to the Organ Stop Demonstration.

In August 1986, I was at home on the family farm in rural New York State when I got a call from Sam Koontz the organ technician at the University of Michigan. Sam asked me to assist him with an independent organ contracting project in Minneapolis MN and asked if I could travel. Two days later, we were in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Convention Center. As part of this whirlwind trip, Sam made arrangements to see the Kimball organ at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention center was slated for demolition and organ enthusiast groups were feverishly organizing to save the Kimball pipe organ from destruction. I knew nothing of the instrument before we visited. However, when I played it, I immediately realized that this instrument was exceptional. A treasure. Certainly on a par with Woolsey hall and the fine Skinner organs of the period or Portland Auditorium and its Austin pipe organ. I had previously thought of Kimball organs as smooth and dull orchestral style instruments. The “Voice of Minneapolis” organ was nothing like that. Its Diapason choruses were absolutely complete and commanding in multiple divisions, and the reeds were absolutely thrilling. I believe that they were brighter than most contemporary Skinner reeds. Their cumulative power and richness was truly awe inspiring not to mention earth shaking as well. Furthermore, the Minneapolis organ in its original installation was a thing of beauty. It was placed in two very tall, spacious chambers on either side of the main proscenium. It is my recollection that there was an un mitered open 32′ in the enclosed Great/Choir box! More interestingly was that the Great chests had both the classic and Theatre stops in close proximity and that the instrument effectively and seamlessly wove a classical and a theatre instrument into one. This Youtube video, fortunately captures a glimpse of the spirit of this magnificent instrument. When people speak of the loss of great symphonic instruments, they are not just speaking of instruments from the E. M. Skinner firm nor are they speaking of large instruments that were only an amalgam of sound. These instruments were ingeniously and carefully designed, voiced with incredible care and were capable of boundless musical expression. While a few landmark instruments still remain, none of the landmark Kimball auditorium organs (Minneapolis, Worcester, and Memphis) are still in use. 

Listen to this youtube movie of Dr. Edward Berryman give a stop demonstration 123 ranks of what may well be the largest Kimball pipe organ ever built. This organ had 2 consoles, a 5 manual Draw Stop console controlling 122 ranks, and a 4 manual theater console controlling 24-28 ranks.



4 responses to “Minneapolis Convention Center Kimball Organ Stop Demonstration

  1. I am glad that this video has refreshed many memories for people that enjoyed seeing this fine instrument. It is also very gratifying to be able to share it with others who have only heard of the legendary Kimball of Minneapolis.

    Thank you for blogging about my YouTube video

    Ed Copeland

    1. You are most welcome. If enough people come up with a plan I hope it could be restored and installed in the new chambers. I hope they were properly designed. A pipe organ like this in a public place is key to getting the general public to understand an appreciate the wonders of the pipe organ.

  2. Any update on this magnificent instrument? Like the Philadelphia Convention Center Moller that went to Oklahoma, the Medinah Temple organ that’s in storage,and the Chicago Stadium Barton, I fear for this instrument. Once they leave their original home, they’re doomed.

  3. I am the organist at Bartlett United Methodist Church, located in Bartlett, TN on the northeast side of Memphis. My response is related to the statement “none of the landmark Kimball auditorium organs (Minneapolis, Worcester, and Memphis) are still in use. While the complete Memphis auditorium instrument is not in use, as the auditorium was torn down in the late 1990s, the South Hall portion of the Kimball Opus 7035 was installed in Bartlett United Methodist Church, Bartlett, TN in 2002. It has been serving nicely as our church’s organ since then.

    My understanding is that the stage of the Memphis auditorium was between the North and South Halls. The organ was designed such that the organ could service each room individually, or together as one organ. The North hall would seat 8500 people, and the South Hall would seat 2500. The organ had 115 ranks of pipes, 74 speaking directly into the North Hall, 41 speaking into the South Hall. It had 2 consoles. Bartlett UMC has the 4 manual South Hall console and the 41 ranks of pipes. The North Hall console had 5 manuals and could access both the North Hall and South Hall organs for those occasions when the building was open as one large room. I did hear some years ago that the North Hall instrument had been sold, but last I heard it’s future is uncertain and it’s whereabouts are unknown to me. I do hope that the Minneapolis organ can be saved.

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