Vice President for Operations, C. B. Fisk, Inc.
I started work at the shop in 1978 at age 27. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was still a boy. It seems to me that Charlie knew I had growing up to do, and I’m grateful for the subtlety of his encouragement. I was in awe of his intellect, logic and problem solving abilities from my first interview, only later did I begin to glimpse his personal and spiritual strength.
A year or so after I started in Gloucester, I invited him out for lunch. I wanted his undivided attention for long enough to ask him what his plans were for me and how he saw my possibilities for advancement at the shop. To my surprise he said he didn’t have any, that my career was my business and that while he’d help me as he could, I’d have to make the plans and do the work, I wouldn’t be led by the hand. He knew that I hoped to dodge taking responsibility for my life, and he wasn’t going to let me get away with it.
He did help. In the eighties, North German organs were very much the thing, and having had to rely on slides of historic instruments during the design of the Wellesley organ, I determined to go to Europe to study the genuine article. In 1983 I took a seven – month leave of absence from the shop to work in North Germany restoring organs. Charlie and Virginia Lee fully supported this wanderschaft, and CBF prevailed upon his friend Fritz Schild to give me a job at Führer Orgelbau in Wilhelmshaven. He sent me this letter as I was preparing to come home. Twenty years later its advice is still the basis of my work.
August 4, 1983
The first thing you should know is that VL and I really enjoyed your letters, both to us and to the shop. In my mind they have created a rather clear impression of what your life in Wilhelmshaven has been like—probably clearer for me than for anyone else here, since I know a few of the people and the feeling of that countryside, so different to anything we know here. I can imagine you during your gregorian ups and downs, and above all in the midst of your characteristic open – faced desire to have a look – see at what is just around the next corner. Don’t ever lose that characteristic, Greg—it’s life itself.
It is fun to see what a terminal case of Schnitgeritis these people have now, isn’t it. What would Louis of Versailles have thought? Or Carlo Cinque? Or Baldifresco, or Hans Leo Hassler?
Perhaps it’s best if I say a few words about what I think are some important things for you to be thinking about now that you’re nearer departure. Among these are the general impression of the work on the old organs generally, especially the things the old guys were and were not careful about. Also sketches of the way they made their actions and couplers, etc. What kind of linkages did they prefer? If you can get this stuff down in your diary, it would help not only me — it would help the fuss – pots in the shop realize that God doesn’t throw up when he sees work that’s quickly and effectively done. About scales, I’m not so interested, though the construction of a really good reed stop is good to have. And how did they build the cases and support the chests in them? There are so many things that you overlook in an old organ when you chase down the standard stuff like scales and keyboard measurements.
I also think that if there are tools and machines in the workshop at Wilhelmshaven that you really love, you ought to find out everything you can about them. Everyone here kills me when I contemplate getting a new machine (“There goes my raise!”) but the fact is that some machines can make raises possible. Your job will be to sell us on anything you have sold yourself on, and you’ll need all the ammunition you can get: complete description of what it is and can do for us, how much it would cost to get it here, how to keep it running, where is the best source in Germany, brochures, etc., etc. shipping costs, u.s.w. No promises that anyone will bite, but it’s no use coming here with only a fairy tale about some magic organ making machine. We’d need to know everything.
I’ll never know what the boys here have been writing you, and it’s always better if I don’t, but I can give you my own short report. First, I myself seem to be doing much better — most days I spend the morning at the shop and rest in the afternoon. My doctors are pleased with my progress. Some days it seems as if I might be able to work myself back into my old self again and other days it seems impossible, but I’m able to stick my nose into things enough now to make some people mad…Stanford seems to be going quite well, thanks mostly to Steve Dieck’s keeping things organized, and at least one truck load of it may be gone before you return. And of course we are trying to do too much to the Harvard organ this summer at the same time as building #85—Mark Nelson and John Krigbaum (and Mark’s sister Patti) are working hard there.
I think everyone admired your pluck at just plain rushing off to a place you’d never been before and you’ll have to remember when you return that there will be a tendency on many people’s part to pay little attention to the “Good News” you have for them. That’s just human nature—remember that they could have had a similar opportunity but shrank away from it, and that hurts a little when they think of it. Mostly the trip is for your edification, Greg—it’s something nobody can ever take away from you, and you’ll find you’ll have to be like Mary and “ponder these things in your heart.” And it’s important for you to realize on your return that you will not be able to just drop back into your old slot—people are going to demand a certain readjustment to your rearrival—they always do. I have nothing whatever specific in mind, Greg, but I just want to be sure you’re ready for the impact of reentry, in which, like the space shuttle, a few tiles always get burnt off!
You’ll probably be glad to hear that I have issued a warning that when #85 has completely gone, we are going to clean the shop within an inch of its life, throwing away everything that does not somehow pertain to our work. (There’ll still be the usual space available under actual workbenches—not backbenches—for Gov’t work, never fear.) I want to be sure the real problem isn’t all the junk we’ve got kicking around—the stuff that’s too good to throw away and not good enough to save.
Well, we’ve missed you more than I can say and we’ll be awfully glad to get you back, and don’t ever forget it!
Charles Nazarian and Greg Bover work out console details for
Opus 82, Christ Church, Greensboro with Charlie looking on.
Photo: Robert Cornell