Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium anchors the north end of the UofM East
Bank campus in Minneapolis. It was originally built as a lecture hall and
its acoustics were specifically normalized to speech. Hence all those Psych
101 classes. Its use as a music performance venue was an afterthought. The
University had its own recital series, but the invitation to the
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra brought about its "re-purposing". The UofM
Music Department wanted to enlarge and enhance their teaching faculty by
using MSO players. The sale of the Orchestra's original downtown
Minneapolis home (Orchestra Hall) made it possible for the organization to
move entirely to Northrop, where its offices were housed, and rehearsal and
locker space created. The academic lecture schedule was altered so the
giant survey lectures took place at 8:30AM so the Orchestra could use the
space from 10:00-12:30. The size of the room meant that only one
subscription concert was needed to accommodate all prospective patrons, who
frequently filled all 5,000+ seats. Northrop was also the venue for the
Metropolitan Opera's Spring Tour appearances. Henri Verbrugghen was the
conductor of the first MSO Northrop concerts. It was there in autumn 1931
that he suffered a stroke while rehearsing, which resulted in the whirlwind
selection of Eugene Ormandy to succeed him. Ormandy's Victor recordings
begun in 1933 gave the MSO its international reputation. The MSO continued
to play its Minneapolis concerts in Northrop until 1974, after which they
moved to a newly built Orchestra Hall on the same site as the old. By that
time, they were renamed The Minnesota Orchestra.

I've been gone from the Twin Cities are for decades and was unaware of the
extensive re-build. Whatever the new spaces in it sound like, they probably
will be better than what they replace, which was described by many as "A
railroad station with chairs". I remember many memorable concerts there
from the fifties to the eighties. I conclude with this remembrance of
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's appearance there in a Lieder recital sometime in
the sixties. The hall had perhaps 2500 people in the audience, which in
Northrop looked empty. The manager feared she would be annoyed by the
turnout. However, when she returned backstage from her first "set", she
seemed exhilarated. She exclaimed: "So many people to hear Lieder!"


On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM, Peter Hirsch <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Mal,
> I don't know the specifics, though I believe that there was some attempt to
> build it in such a way as to send the stage sounds upward rather than out
> to the audience. The large size of the hall has been mentioned in some
> articles, but this seems odd to me since the Met Opera, diagonally next
> door, is plenty big, too, but there is no problem hearing the singers
> anywhere in that house.
> A little searching turns up a number of articles about the problem, but no
> real details on its causes. There is an interesting looking study by
> the AES<> that
> looks like it is only open to members, but I assume that many on this list
> fit that category.
> There probably are others on this list (Dennis?) more qualified to comment
> on this, but I can personally verify that the hall was never a good venue
> for opera, though this is now mostly a moot point, I guess.
> Peter H.
> On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 12:37 PM, Malcolm Rockwell <[log in to unmask]
> >wrote:
> > I'm curious as to how designing in that acoustically dead area was
> > accomplished.
> > Malcolm
> >
> > *******
> >
> > On 3/13/2014 5:57 AM, Peter Hirsch wrote:
> >
> >> Interesting that it states that "dance was the primary program that [new
> >> Northrop] is designed around". I hope that doesn't mean that it will
> have
> >> the acoustics of the Lincoln Center auditorium formerly known as the New
> >> York State Theater (re-christened for a pair of super-rich, politically
> >> meddlesome brothers that I'd prefer not credit by name). With the NY
> City
> >> Ballet as its original tenant, it was created with a dead area onstage
> so
> >> that there would be nothing audible radiating to the audience from the
> >> dancing. Of course, when the late, lamented, City Opera moved from their
> >> original home at City Center the singers found themselves trapped in
> this
> >> same sonic void. Various tweaks, including some sort of amplification,
> >> were
> >> tried over the years. None particularly successfully.
> >>
> >> Hope this hasn't veered too far off-ARSC-topic.
> >>
> >> Peter Hirsch
> >>
> >>
> >> On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 8:09 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >>
> >>>
> >>> Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis was a non-ideal recording venue in
> the
> >>> 1950s. Fortunately, Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony made music good
> >>> enough to out-shine the inferior hall acoustics. Unfortunately, nearby
> >>> Edison High School and its good-sounding auditorium weren't discovered
> >>> until very late in the Mercury-MSO contract.
> >>>
> >>> -- Tom Fine
> >>>
> >>

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