William Smith

Member of the DUPC organ committee, an attorney and a music enthusiast.

Memories of Opus 83, Downtown United Presbyterian Church, Rochester, NY

  • DUPC members carrying in the metal pipes with classy dress white gloves — not the ugly disposables available today.
  • David and Brian Pike performing like circus acrobats on the organ’s skeletal structure — and NOT adding to Charlie’s workman’s comp rates!! (And David voicing his first stop on the Positiv—a wooden flute rebuilt from the old Moeller Doppelflöte).
  • Dave Gifford cursing and swearing as he “wrestled” with the Great Cavaillé-Coll—like 8 and 4 foot Trumpet stops — no wonder he was able to replicate the wonderful French “nasty” sound we hear on the Great division today!!
  • Steve Dieck coming in the middle of the night to add a reversible Great to Pedal coupler “gratis” when we had spent all our money — and Charlie later reviewing the organ, noting that this was not in the specifications, and only saying in his own sly — and gracious — way: “My, isn’t that interesting!!”
  • Steve saying that Charlie would not have built this instrument in this originally dry acoustic if Mel Butler has not been such a nice guy — Mel contributing the “Trechteregal” on the Positiv out of his own pocket.
  • Lunch at the University Club with Charlie — and Charlie acceding to the request of the Club Manager to draw on the table cloth a design of an organ for his Cadillac Limousine — whereupon Charlie drew a Cadillac looking like an art deco batmobile with no bellows but with these huge gargoyle—like air scoops which would provide the wind pressure at 40 miles per hour.
  • Charlie looking at the insides of Christ Episcopal Church in Rochester and the great Tiffany windows in the apse and wishing he could build an organ there with its great acoustics —
  • Steve positioning the communion table in front of the completed Opus 83 case — and the writing which said at the front of the table “In Memory of Me” — to which you had one of your artisans add an “L” in perfect Gothic to read “In memory of Mel”.
  • And above it all, having an unforgettable dinner with Charlie and Virginia Lee in their then radiant new house on the shore near Gloucester, and Charlie saying to me: “Bill, if my instruments don’t teach, they will have failed.”

And that’s how I will always remember Charlie — always fearing imperfection and failure, but never afraid to RISK imperfection and failure to achieve a higher truth.