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Minnesota Orchestra and the University of Minnesota Celebrate Northrop's Restored Pipe Organ

Grammy-winning organist Paul Jacobs performs a world premiere by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer John Harbison

Music Director Osmo Vänskä leads the Minnesota Orchestra in concerts at Northrop on the campus of the University of Minnesota

On October 12 and 13, Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra perform concerts at Northrop at the University of Minnesota celebrating the long-awaited restoration of Northrop’s Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. The program features the world premiere of What Do We Make of Bach? for Orchestra and Obbligato Organ by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison, the Orchestra’s 2018-19 featured composer. This work—performed by virtuoso organist Paul Jacobs in his Minnesota Orchestra debut—was jointly commissioned by Northrop, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony. The concerts also include performances of Bach’s Chaconne, in an orchestration by Jenő Hubay, and Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony.

Additional activities surrounding the inaugural weekend of the Northrop pipe organ include an Organist’s Open House event, and performances and discussions with Michael Barone of Minnesota Public Radio’s Pipedreams and several local organists. See complete details at the conclusion of this press release.

The Minnesota Orchestra concerts are held at Northrop at the University of Minnesota on Friday, October 12, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, October 13, at 8 p.m., with ticket prices ranging from $35 to $102. More information is available at, and by phone at 612-371-5656. For further purchasing details, refer to the information section at the conclusion of this press release.

Paul Jacobs, organ
The only organ soloist ever to win a Grammy Award, Paul Jacobs has been an important influence in the revival of symphonic works featuring the organ and is a true innovator in the advocacy of organ repertoire. In addition to this world premiere of John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach?, Jacobs has premiered works by Christopher Rouse, Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus and Christopher Theofanidis, among other composers. He is a frequently-appearing concerto and recital soloist and regularly performs on the concert organs of the San Francisco, Montreal, Pacific, Phoenix, Kansas City, Edmonton, Indianapolis, Dallas, Seattle and Toledo Symphony Orchestras. He has performed the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen in marathon performances throughout North America, and he recently reached the milestone of having performed in each of the 50 United States. He has appeared on American Public Media’s Performance Today, Pipedreams and Saint Paul Sunday, as well as NPR’s Morning Edition, ABC-TV’s World News Tonight, and BBC Radio 3. More:

About the Northrop organ
The historic Northrop organ, Aeolian-Skinner’s Opus 892, was built between 1932 and 1936, and is one of the most notable concert-hall pipe organs in the United States. Its 6,982 pipes comprise 108 ranks and 81 speaking stops, ranging in height from 32 feet tall to the size of a pencil. The public face of the organ is the console, with four keyboards, a pedalboard and about 225 separate controls. The Northrop organ is the third-largest auditorium-based Aeolian-Skinner extant in the U.S. today. It was awarded the prestigious “Exceptional Historic Merit” citation by the Organ Historical Society in 1999.

When the Minnesota Orchestra—then called the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra—made Northrop its home beginning in 1930, the organ was used often, but by the late 1960s, it began to fall into disrepair. When Northrop’s building renovation began in 2011, the organ was carefully cataloged, crated and moved into storage, where it sat for several years waiting for the funding needed to repair and reinstall the instrument. A generous bequest by the late Dr. Roger E. Anderson provided funds for the reinstallation of the instrument in the chambers above the stage and behind the proscenium. The reinstallation has been painstakingly carried out by Foley-Baker and Associates and culminates in these grand inaugural concert by the Minnesota Orchestra.

Bach, Harbison and Saint-Saëns
In adapting the Chaconne from Bach’s celebrated Second Violin Partita, Jenő Hubay took the intricate lines of the original violin part and creatively distributed them across a large orchestra in a Wagnerian take on a Baroque classic.

The majestic sound of Northrop’s historic pipe organ is at the heart of Harbison’s new work What Do We Make of Bach? for Orchestra and Obbligato Organ, a 21st-century rumination on Bach’s trademark styles of improvisation, imitation, thematic variation and, of course, fugue.

Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 earned its name Organ Symphony because of the organ’s prominent role—as an integral part of the orchestra rather than as a soloist. The agitated motive that opens the symphony eventually gives way to a moment of serenity for organ and strings. Following are sections of brilliant scales and majestic fanfares, with the organ’s role expanding all the way to the grand conclusion.

Minnesota Orchestra Classical Concerts

Friday, October 12, 2018, 8 p.m / Northrop, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Saturday, October 13, 2018, 8 p.m. / Northrop, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Paul Jacobs, organ

BACH/arr. Hubay               Chaconne, from Partita No. 2
HARBISON                          What Do We Make of Bach? for Orchestra and Obbligato Organ [World Premiere]
SAINT-SAËNS                     Symphony No. 3, Organ Symphony

Please note: Paul Jacobs is the featured soloist only for the world premiere by John Harbison. University of Minnesota Organ Professor Dean Billmeyer will play the organ for Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony. 

Tickets: $35 to $102

Visit for more information about these events.

An Intimate Introduction to the Northrop Organ
Saturday, October 13, 10:30 a.m. to noon
– The Twin Cities Chapter of the American Guild of Organists offers An Intimate Introduction to the Northrop Organ, a special opportunity to additionally explore the sonic resources of Minnesota’s newest old pipe organ, the University of Minnesota’s 108-rank 1932-35 Aeolian-Skinner instrument. Minnesota Public Radio’s Pipedreams host Michael Barone, University of Minnesota Organ Professor Dean Billmeyer, and an able roster of six local soloists will present solo repertoire. 

Organist’s Open House 
Saturday, October 13, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. –
Free open house with “open console” available for qualified players and all curious listeners to further introduce the recently reinstalled Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ to the community.  Bring scores, organ shoes and courage.   

Northrop’s Historic Pipe Organ: A Resounding Success
A new exhibit titled Northrop's Historic Pipe Organ: A Resounding Success in Northrop's 4th-floor Gallery explores the history, design and significance of the Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892 organ. This exhibit is free and open to the public and runs through December 2018. 

Concert Preview
Free pre-concert discussion with Phillip Gainsley, John Harbison and Paul Jacobs in the Best Buy Theater at Northrop on Friday, October 12, and Saturday, October 13, at 6:45 p.m. This 45-minute concert preview is free; however, a concert ticket is required for entry.


Tickets for these particular concerts may also be purchased through Northrop at Individual tickets and subscription packages can be purchased online at, or by calling 612-371-5656 (612-371-5642 for subscriptions) or 800-292-4141. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Orchestra Hall Box Office, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (Stage Door ticketing is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lobby Box Office ticketing begins two hours before all ticketed performances); and at the skyway accessible Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, International Centre, 5th floor, 920 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). For more information, call 612-371-5656, or visit For subscriptions, call 612-371-5642 or visit For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662. 

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.

The Star Tribune is the Minnesota Orchestra’s media partner for the 2018-19 season. 

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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Gwen Pappas, Director of Public Relations 
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Emma Plehal, Communications Manager and Assistant Editor
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Press Contacts

Gwen Pappas

Director of Communications
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Carl Schroeder

Publications Editor
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Emma Plehal

Communications Manager and Assistant Editor
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Isaac Risseeuw

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Communications Office

Minnesota Orchestra
1111 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
Phone: 612.371.5600
Fax: 612.371.7170

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