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.