Music Director, Old West Church, Boston, Fisk #55
Toward the end of 1973 I was asked to join a meeting of the Old West Church Music Committee to prepare for getting a new organist. After the meeting Charles Fisk, Max Miller and I went to the Chinese Restaurant Lounge across the street for a glass of beer. Then Charlie said, “Yuko, have you ever thought of becoming the organist for Old West Church?” These were absolutely unexpected words, and my answer was simply “No”. Charlie kept a smile on his face and went on to tell me how convinced he was for me to be the organist of his organ at Old West, and that it was the right thing for me to do.
I was overwhelmed by his totally positive thoughts, and by the end of the conversation that evening I was convinced that Charlie was right and said “Yes” to him without knowing what the future would hold. As every one knows, Charles Fisk believed very strongly that his organ was built for this church, and that it should be shared by all people, performers and listeners alike.
In February of 1974 I began to play for worship services (as a non salaried organist), organized organ recitals for the season as well as the weekly lunchtime concerts which, after a decade, evolved into the Summer Evening Concerts.
As I look back over the past 30 years as the music director of Old West Church, I say to myself “How on the earth did Charlie know that I would be the appropriate one?” I am not sure if I have been, really! Yet, I do know that Charlie then knew that if I were caught by beautiful sonorities that I could not leave them, would have enjoy them, would maintain the instrument, and would let it be heard and played by all.
Charlie had great faith and trust in human beings. He believed every one was born with certain talents as a gift from God, no matter how small they might be. When you were trusted by Charles Fisk you grew up to his expectations, and lived up to his trust. That is what certainly happened to me!
As I listened to organ students of the New England Conservatory day by day, year after year, and, of course, through my own practice, I became convinced that the 1971 Charles Fisk organ at Old West is a living organism and not just an organ with extraordinary beauty. This organ responds to the high demands of an artist as if a lively dialogue between two humans is being exchanged. I even dare say that the spirit of Charlie, an artist – organ builder, is present when the organ is played by any organist who wishes to engage in conversation.
Charlie was a great teacher to us all. I believe deeply that he will speak continuously to us all through his organ for centuries to come! I am very grateful indeed that Charlie caught me three decades ago with his deep insight into the future.