I was saddened to read of the death of Jim Weaver.

It must have been about 1974 or 1975. I had the chance to attend a Sunday service at Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore and hear the legendary (even then) Jim Weaver play the equally legendary first major instrument from the hands of organ builder Charlie Fisk. I mistook the time of the service and instead of arriving early for 11:00am I was very late for 10:00am. I went in quietly; from the narthex I could see in through the glass door and thought the place was on fire, but when I pushed open the door the sweet scent of the incense told me otherwise. I was so late that Communion was well underway. I slipped into a pew and knelt. Jim began to play “Herzliebster Jesu” as Communion music. He began with a single stop; at each successive stanza he added another stop. His playing and skillful registration made that an unforgettable experience, one that I treasure even forty-five odd years later. I went on to meet Jim on a number of occasions, not least at his wonderful house concerts.

He was a truly gentle and kind human being. Barbara Wolf told of a recording session, a midnight session in the Hall of Musical Instruments in the Smithsonian. The hour was late because only then was the traffic quiet enough for recording. It was the end of the session; everyone was very tired, but they had successfully gotten every thing on the program except for one elusive movement, which they had tried several times. Finally it was going perfectly, when Barbara’s new gadget, an electronic watch, began its alarm, a sickeningly sweet obscure Swiss-German folk song. Barbara said she was mortified and was looking for a hole to climb into. The players stopped in the ragged way. Jim was conducting from the harpsichord. Everyone was expecting rage, but Jim just looked fixedly at the keyboard, then began to play the stupid melody. Then an improvised variation; then another; then several more, all brilliant and funny. When Jim finished, there was a roar of applause. He smiled and looked at everyone and said, “Okay, let’s get it this time.” And they did.

After one concert, Jim and others, including me, were discussing what the Smithsonian Chamber Players should record next. I boldly said, “Handel concerti grossi.” Jim smiled and said, “That’s not a bad idea.” Maybe eighteen months later, when the package containing the new release came, there was a second package of the same discs, an autographed set from Jim, with an inscription, “I hope you find this as jolly as you hoped!”

The Beethoven cello sonatas 1 & 2, recorded by Weaver with cellist Kenneth Slowik, were some of the lovely music I heard at one of his house concerts. The food was equally memorable; it was almost always prepared by Ken’s wife Theresa (although at least once it was done by Barbara Wolf, who was a foodie before there was such a thing).

There was an incredible network back then!

Readers may hear him in action with Slowik and other members of his Smithsonian ensemble in the second piano quartet of Mozart here.