Owen Jander
[As a new member of the Fisk workshop in 1979 I distinctly remember the regular and frequent visits to the shop of Owen Jander during the long incubation of Opus 72, the Wellesley Organ. Owen spoke to everyone in the workshop in a most ebullient way encouraging us in our vocation to make a singular instrument. —Mark Nelson, editor.]

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Remembering Charles Fisk 

During his Adventure with Opus 72—the Wellesley College Organ

Back in 1971, as the Wellesley College Music Department began contemplating a new pipe organ, it was suggested that this instrument have a unique historical character. The initial proposal was for a "Sweelinck" organ; what later came to pass was a "Scheidt" organ. I was chairing the Department at the time, and so it fell to me to get Charles Fisk on the phone and enquire whether he might be interested in a project of this nature. His response was something like this: "I would love to build an instrument like that—but you need to be aware that, at this point, I don't know how. On the other hand, I can imagine what would be required to learn how."

As Charlie and I groped for appropriate wording of a tentative "working" contract, he approved my wish to include the adjective "uncompromising"—but he balked at my admonition that he should seek to copy the work of historical organ builders. "I can't copy the work of other builders," he insisted; "I can't even copy myself!"

Along the way in that ten - year - long adventure Charlie made three trips to Europe. On the second trip, which was planned and guided by Harald Vogel, I went along. (Also with us was Frank Taylor, Wellesley's organ instructor.) The tour began in France. It is hard to believe that this was the first time Charles Fisk—who had earlier built the 18th—century French - style organ at Old West Church—had ever been to France.

Owen Jander, Frank Taylor, Charles Fisk

(l to r) Owen Jander, Frank Taylor and
Charles Fisk planning the Wellesley organ

Photo: Robert Cornell

Vogel took us to see and hear many instruments. As we entered one small but high - arching Gothic church, Charlie whispered, "Oh, Mommy, give me a building like this!"

As we four toured the Netherlands we were joined by Klaas Bolt. In one church that housed a precious little 17th century organ Charlie and I sat together in the nave as Klaas improvised. At one point Charlie poked me and said, "Listen, Owen, that's the sound of lead!"

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