Minnesota Orchestra debuts restored, 90-year-old Northrop pipe organ

Many musicians agree that an organ in like one orchestra in itself with all sorts of capabilities.

Now, what's old is new again.

The talent of the Minnesota Orchestra is undeniable, but for U of M Professor of Music Dean Billmeyer, there's been something missing in recent years until now.

“Playing a big organ like this with lot of stops and lots of pipes and lots of colors. One of the really fun things is you can orchestrate music,” said Billmeyer.

This Aeolian-Skiner pipe organ was first installed at the Northrop between 1932 to 1936. It’s considered one of the most notable concert hall pipe organs in the country.

During the Northrop’s 2011 renovation, the organ was carefully placed into storage.

But even before then, the nearly 90-year-old instrument started to fall into disrepair.

In the late 1960's Billmeyer helped create the Friends of the Northrop Organ Fund.

In 2015, thanks to a couple of generous donors and fundraising, it took more than $3 million to completely restore the organ from the inside out, including the nearly 7,000 pipes that are built into the Northrop four stories above where the organist plays the keys.

“In all rehearsals we always have extra pair of ears to listen back there, because it’s louder to the audience then for me, so we have to make the balance so the audience can enjoy,” said Osmo Vanska, the Minnesota Orchestra Music Director.

After being silenced for seven years, Billmeyer hopes this weekend’s audience enjoys this return to the Northrop as much as he is.

“I missed it a great deal,” he said. “It’s back, it’s better than ever and it’s just such a joy to play.”

The newly restored organ will make its debut tonight and tomorrow night and a few tickets are still available.