So in the end it was Charlie. Our serious discussions with him dated from December of that year, and we were talking French romantic. I no longer remember when my thinking veered in that direction, but I must have suggested the possibility of something like a Cavaillé - Coll for Buffalo, because on 29 December 1978 he wrote, The idea of the Cavaillé - Coll will always interest me very much. If we can make it a reality, let's!
In June, 1979, I went to St. Paul, Minnesota, to give a talk at Macalester College, and took the opportunity to visit House of Hope, where a crew, including Charlie, were finishing their magnum opus. This was just after Charlie had been to Paris and seen several Cavaillé - Colls. We sat in the garden and talked about Buffalo. The only paper at hand was the envelope of my American Airlines ticket, and on this Charlie sketched, in ink and in pencil, his ideas for the organ.
(The 4 principal and vox humana on the swell and the stoplist of a great in the lower right part are in my hand.)
What is fascinating and curious to observe in this sketch is that the French - ness is mostly in the language. The distance that separated this scheme from Cavaillé - Colls of equivalent size is seen most strikingly in matters of overall balance. Fisk has four divisions of almost equal numbers of stops instead of Cavaillé's characteristic large great with a Récit and positif hardly more than half the size and an even smaller pedal. There are seven mixtures, none of them a cornet, and eight reeds. This is long way from the paucity of mixtures and wealth of reeds in a typical Cavaillé - Coll. Independent tierces and larigots are almost unknown in Cavaillé - Colls of this size, and the same is true of gemshorns (cors de chamois), spindle flutes (flûtes fuseau), and chorale basses.
He could not have thought that his sketch represented a Cavaillé - Coll or anything resembling one, in spite of his burst of enthusiasm six months before; after all, he had just been studying the real thing on its home ground. His first formal proposal came in a letter to the university dated 26 March 1980, in which he now stated explicitly that he was proposing an instrument in the style of Cavaillé - Coll and that he believed that this organ would be, as he said, the first of its kind in this country.
There were 31 stops and 40 ranks of pipes on three manuals and pedals. Eight of them were money - saving double - draws in this case, two stops on one knob that pulled out halfway to isolate a rank in a mixture, and all the way for the whole mixture. Except for these pernicious double - draws, the second stoplist was as similar to that of most Cavaillé - Colls of comparable size as the sketch on the airline envelope was different. Two mechanical features of Fisk's proposal, firsts for the company, enhanced its authenticity: a pneumatic lever (Barker machine) for the great, and divided windchests with higher pressures for the trebles than for the basses.
The stop action was mechanical, and although the four double - draw pairs would have vitiated the utility of a modern combination action, four composition pedals drawing groups of stops on each division were provided. The manual compass was 56 notes and the pedal, 30. A comparison of this scheme with the stoplist of a middle - period Cavaillé - Coll of similar size provides clues to Charlie's thinking. The Fisk scheme is labeled A to distinguish it from two further proposals submitted the following June.