Fisk Nanney

Mem Chu is going Baroque

After nearly three decades in the making, the Fisk-Nanney organ arrives at the Memorial Church. This elaborate instrument, comprised of 73 ranks and 4,422 pipes, was carefully engineered to authentically reconstruct baroque organ music. Made from tin, lead, rosewood, poplar, granadilla, and bone, it is considered one of the finest organs in the world. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Robert Huw Morgan, the current University Organist, exclaimed that the Fisk-Nanney “is a sound that pulls no punches, it’s gutsy — like a Ferrari.”

Herbert Nanney, the Emeritus University Organist, had originally contracted a German organ company to create the instrument. When the company suddenly went bankrupt, Nanney consulted with one of his former organ students, Charles Fisk. Fisk had entered Stanford in 1950 as a nuclear physics graduate student, but became so enamored with Stanford’s musical scene that he began undergraduate coursework in music and switched to a Music major. Although Fisk did not follow a career as a musical performer, he utilized his scientific prowess to create the Fisk-Nanney organ. The organ’s design is indebted to the tuning system of Harald Vogel, a world-renowned organist and organologist at the University of the Arts Bremen (Hochschule für Künste Bremen). Fisk passed away shortly before the organ’s installation, hence the Memorial Church program for the organ’s dedication likewise served as a memorial to its builder.

The construction and completion of the Fisk-Nanney was made possible by the gifts of several donors: the late George Morell (founding editor of the Palo Alto Times and Stanford Trustee) and his wife Virginia, Jacques Littlefield (Stanford alumnus, B.A. 1971, M.B.A. 1973), Professor Walter Hewlett (Music Department, Stanford), and the estate of the late Evelyn Turrentine.

Herbert Nanney at the Murray-Harris organ. Stanford Historical Photograph Collection


Bios: Herbert Nanney – University Organist and Professor of Music from 1947 to 1985.
Charles Fisk – Stanford alumnus and designer of the Fisk-Nanney organ, Memorial Church’s second organ.