David Fuller
Charles Fisk met David Fuller, noted harpsichordist, organist and musicologist, in the 1950's, beginning conversations that would culminate twenty - three years later in a new organ for The University at Buffalo.

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There is no reason to think that Charlie knew the Lavaur organ; certainly I had never even heard of the town in which it was located, much less of the instrument (Lavaur is in the south, not far from Toulouse). But it is as typical of Cavaillé - Colls middle - period organs as Charlie's scheme on the airline envelope was untypical of this kind of instrument, and the many similarities that link it with his proposal demonstrate his familiarity with Cavaillé's practice. Yet the two instruments with all the stops drawn would sound very different. The lack of Cavaillé's two powerful 16s and bourdon in the great and the choice of a fourniture (with breaks) instead of Cavaillé's progressive mixture, together with the addition of the carillon, cornet, and pedal mixture, all shift Fisk's tutti in the direction of the light and the bright. The carillon (2 2/3 - 1 3/5 - 1) and cornet were, to be sure, often incorporated into Cavaillé's later and larger organs, and it was at my request that they, along with the violoncelle and the swell flute ensemble, were included here. Never to my knowledge, however, did Cavaillé put a mixture into the pedal, not even in the 124 - stop project for St. Peters in Rome. The unda maris was probably a broad string meant to beat with the principal, though it might conceivably have been a bourdon. It no longer exists.

According to Charles's letter, even though the value of the dollar was then in free - fall he could have built his Cavaillé - Coll for our quarter - million IF it could be paid immediately in full and IF he could begin construction immediately. Neither condition could even be dreamed of. His delivery time was then a little over four years, and work on our instrument could not even begin for three. Moreover, even though the money had been in our budget for thirteen years, it would take two more for the State actually to approve the purchase order. Until then we could not even secure a place on Fisk's waiting list, since this required a down payment.

Cavaillé was, if not dead, at least severely crippled. On 16 June 1980 Charlie sent us two more stoplists, B and C, either of which he said he could build for $250,000 if the down payment were big enough and the amount that would have to be escalated were correspondingly reduced to a minimum.

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Gone were multiple pressures, gone was the Barker machine, gone were the composition pedals, gone were the big string on the great, the positive trumpet, and the vox humana on the swell. Pedal 16 and 8 foundations were now borrowed from the great. The number of those malignant double - draws had doubled and scheme C was padded with no fewer than four preparations. But miraculously the four harmonic flutes Charlie seems never to have made even one harmonic flute until 1979 were not touched.

His cover letter made the necessary revision in his thinking explicit: the organ was now to be Fisk - eclectic; in this specification we have endeavored to provide an organ which will cover the gamut of the musical literature that is being taught today. Of particular interest is that this organ would perform well the works of seventeenth and eighteenth century German, Dutch, and French composers, yet would make an unusually effective display of the French music of the nineteenth century.

It is a measure of the cost of a Cavaillé - Coll copy and perhaps a comment on the all - purpose organ that it should have been cheaper to build an instrument to cover the whole range of organ music than it was to make one designed for a single repertory!

The introduction of German and Dutch elements into what had been a resolutely Latin approach to our design must have been congenial to Charlie in 1980, since he was approaching the culmination of years of inquiry into these instruments in connection with the 17th - century north - German organ for Wellesley College, whose dedication was only a little over a year away. The names themselves furnish a rough guide to the style he had in mind for each group of stops.

The plenum of both greats was to be north German, influenced by Stellwagen, while the reeds and of course the harmonic flute were French. The two positives are less neatly analyzed. For one thing, both were to be played in modern French style from the middle manual, contrary to what one would naturally assume, especially in the case of the Brustpositiv. That Brustpositiv is frankly odd, with its presumably imitative clarinette confronted by a snarling regal and its polyglot jeu de tierce surmounted by a tiny cimbel.

But the great sacrifice here is clearly in the Pedal divisions. Two borrowed manual stops could never provide enough weight to support a manual ensemble of twenty foundations and mixtures unless they were so heavy as to make them useless in their home divisions.

On 28 October 1981, after fifteen months of battling every imaginable obstacle, we signed an agreement with Virginia Lee to order spec. C. We only needed Albany to approve it for the clock to begin ticking. Slee Hall was just complete with its gaping organ loft. But Albany continued to withhold its final approval. In April we were informed that the Schlicker Company had induced a New York state legislator to block the approval, and we were required to gather letters from prominent members of the profession testifying to Schlickers inability to build the organ we required. Enthusiastic testimonials to that effect poured in and were duly forwarded. Finally, on 3 June 1982 we were informed that Albany had approved the purchase order. The following year Charlie died.

But the company survived indeed it throve, and the clock ticked and ticked. Delivery was promised for 1987, and instead of an organ we got a letter telling us that 1989 would be the delivery date. We never stopped begging for more money. Suddenly, in 1988, we were informed that $621,500 had been committed to the organ. This sum just happened to be identical to one named in a letter from Mark Nelson in March of that year, and it would buy us half again as much organ as we thought we were going to get and almost as much as would fit in the loft. Thank God for that last delay! On the last day of July, 1989, twenty - two years after it had been budgeted, Opus 95 arrived, and it was dedicated the following April after eight almost solid months of installation and finishing. I think Charlie would have been thrilled with the sound.

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