When the late Charles B. Fisk, a Harvard-educated physicist turned organ maker, installed the first organ in Memorial Church at his alma mater, he wanted it in the back. But for various reasons, it was installed in the front of the church in 1967.
However, when C.B. Fisk Inc. built an updated organ for the Harvard church, Opus 139 was installed last year in the back of the church.
Now this story, and the legacy of the Gloucester organ building shop, is the subject of the documentary “To Hear the Music,” by Dennis Lanson, which will have its first screenings over the next week in Gloucester and Rockport. The business card for the film states that it is a documentary film “about making a quality product in an age of ersatz.”
The film tells the tale of Opus 139, from the pipe organ’s conception to its inaugural concert on Easter after it was installed in 2012 at Harvard’s Memorial Church.
Fisk (1925-1983) founded the C.B. Fisk shop in 1961 on Cape Ann, where he had summered since he was a child.
“The first organ was very important to him, and the second one was important to us as a company to revisit this venue,” said Greg Bover, the project manager and C.B. Fisk’s vice president of operations.
More than 40,000 hours went into the creation of Opus 139.
Over the years, the Gloucester organ-building company has been featured on television programs such as “Charles Kuralt” and “Chronicle,” as well as being filmed on an informal level. But this is first professional high quality film about the unique shop and its founder.
“With plans for a career in nuclear physics, Charles began studying at Harvard University, but World War II intervened and he enlisted in the Army. Soon after, at the age of 19, he began working under Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos as a minor technician on the detonator team for the Manhattan Project. After the war he resumed his studies at Harvard and after graduation continued at Stanford University,” according to the website.