In the early 1960s, Arthur Poister at Syracuse University was advising his students to do graduate work in organ in the city of Boston. He believed, and now we know his reason, that Boston was the center of the organ movement in the US. It was our good fortune that we were able to take his advice, and there began the enormous influence of Charles Fisk on all those lucky enough to know him.
While a graduate student under Donald Willing and Daniel Pinkham at New England Conservatory, the contract for the Harvard organ was signed. I was fortunate enough to play my graduate recital on the new Fisk at Kings Chapel, just after Leonard Raver had played the opening recital.
Incredible and indelible insights into choral music were learned at the Singerei meetings in the mid 60s in the old shop at Gloucester harbor. Charles' deep musical instincts pervaded these occasions. We sat around the table shoulder - to - shoulder, and not just to achieve a good vocal blend, but to keep warm, as well! An invitation from Barbara Owen to a Singerei would have us changing any previous plans we might have had in order to get to Charlie's shop to sing. On those frequent Sunday evenings, one could find local organ builders, Fritz Noack and John Brombaugh in the group, along with Ingeborg and Christa. Often there were young visiting builders, now prominent, then eager to learn from Charlie's quiet wisdom.
We have since haunted the new shop anytime we are in the area. Indeed, we have enjoyed keeping up as best we can with the exciting work of the shop for four decades. I well remember Charlie's phone call to me in 1980 as I was serving as consultant for the Fisk at a southern California church. Hi Tom how are you? What do you think about this organ for Pacific Palisades?
Memories throughout a career are invaluable. Memories of the Boston area in those formative years of graduate school hinge on one of the most influential musicians of his day: Charles Fisk. I doubt that he suspected just how influential he was - teaching by his very presence about organ building to be sure, but about music and life, as well.
Long live the Fisk Shop!
Charlie resting on a table saw.
Photo: Robert Cornell