When Harvard University Organist, Christian Lane, lifts his hands from the four well used manuals of the 1967 C. B. Fisk opus 46 organ in Appleton Chapel for the final time, at 7:30 P.M., on Monday, May 3, [reviewed here] staff from the firm that built the instrument will be ready with tools, crating, and pipe trays. Dismantling and preparing it for a second stage of life in a reverberant new Presbyterian church in Austin, Texas, will be a brief interim chapter in a remarkable, and at times briskly controversial, experiment begun by the University in the 1960s.
A beautiful D.A. Flentrop organ across the way, in what was then Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum for Germanic art, had been dedicated in 1958 and was immediately propelled into national fame by organist E. Power Biggs and his high-profile series of recitals, Columbia LPs, and radio broadcasts. This Dutch organ benefited from the supportive, clear acoustic of a massive masonry structure with neither carpeting nor permanent furniture. The questing, experiment-ready University, encouraged by the Flentrop’s musical and social success, was next interested in seeking an American solution to its local acoustical challenge. All resoundingly agreed that providing a new organ for Memorial Church would present potent technical and æsthetic hurdles along the way. They entrusted the design, construction, and voicing to one of their own, Charles Brenton Fisk, ‘45.