I was going to write today’s blog about landing gear – an airplane requirement if ever there was one. One website I went to talked about early airplane designer Jack Northrop.
Because I’m from Minnesota that name struck a chord. The University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus houses the huge Northrop auditorium, site of countless cultural events ranging from UofM Marching Band concerts to ethnic dance recitals to lectures to art shows. I decided to take an online detour to see if Jack Northrop was related to Cyrus Northrop, a former U president for whom the auditorium is named.
The short answer to that question appears to be “no” but I kept reading anyway. (I’m a minimalist Facebook person and don’t have a web-capable phone or anything else mobile that will stream the web and email, but I’m still amazed at the amount of time one can spend online, going from link to link to link!) It turns out the place is closed until 2013 because they’re doing some major renovations+, including reducing the seating capacity from more than 4,000 to 2,800.
One of the things being worked on is Aeolian-Skinner's Opus 892C - the huge concert hall pipe organ. It was completed over three years in the 1930s as money became available. The largest of the organ's 7,068 pipes are 32 feet tall; the smallest is the size of a pencil. The organ has 102 organ stops (those little buttons or levers the organist flips to get different sounds) and 109 ranks of pipes. A “rank” is a single set of pipes, each with a organ pipe’s different pitch that produces the same sound (i.e. “trumpet”). Like most organs, Opus 892C was customized to fit the space where it was installed.
This is a picture of the Opus 892C “pedal organ” – all of these behind-the-scene pipes support the pedals that the organist’s feet play while his/her hands are busy on the black and white keys.
Following the links that gave me this information made me wonder how many people who come to Northrop to hear or see something in the cultural vein know about this organ and its history. Same thing with an old airplane – do people wonder about it when they see a picture of it, or better yet, see it flying or sitting on the ground? Are they compelled to learn more about it or do they just enjoy its existing beauty? Neither attitude is “wrong” but I think this quote by noted writer and historian David McCullough sums up a better attitude:
“Curiosity is what separates us from the cabbages. It's accelerative.
The more we know, the more we want to know.”
By the way, Jack Northrop is generally credited with having invented “trouser gear” – tune in to next week’s blog for more about that!
And in another “by the way” that also is related indirectly to "flight" but in a fun way, here is a short video of a renowned organist Carol Williams playing “The Flight Of The Bumble Bee” with a heavy reliance on organ pedals. This will give you a good idea of what a workout it can be to play a pipe organ!
Finally, we are having a second webinar session tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. (Eastern time). Although there was a technical glitch during Wednesday’s event and Charles McGee wasn’t able to join us, Tuskegee Airman Harold Brown was hugely entertaining as he answered texted questions and talked off the cuff about his experiences during World War II. We anticipate that all glitches will be fixed for tomorrow and Charles will be on board with us.
To participate in the Saturday, February 4th event, which runs from 3-3:45 p.m. (or so) Eastern time, click here to register http://tinyurl.com/RedTailWebinar2.
As always, we encourage you to invite any young people in your life to tune in. This is a chance to hear about history from two gentlemen who contributed to it.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.