In the fall, my dear friend Martha Bixler died. Not sure of the cause – it was not COVID. I had known her since 1962. I think I met her when I was turning pages for a harpsichordist who was playing for a small group that Martha was also in. I was probably the worst page turner you could imagine – I made every possible mistake: turning too early and too late, forgetting the repeat, even dropping the music on the keyboard. I think that at the time Martha thought I was a totally worthless ditz. Well, I was! I’d had a fling with the harpsichordist – I don’t honestly remember how the relationship ended, but it wasn’t pleasant. At the time Martha was a recorder player, very well-known in early music circles. She was a member of the Trio Flauto Dolce, with two men, also great recorder players. I was intensely into early music then. My late husband Paul was too. We had not yet met, but we both attended the Trio’s concerts avidly. Morris Newman, one of the men in the trio, lived up near City College, where Paul was going to school. One time Paul went into a bar up there and Morris was there. Paul went up to him and said how he’d admired the Trio’s playing – where could he hear more? Morris suggested that he attend the Christmas Festival of the Country Dance Society – they would all be there.
The people at the dance were all tightly woven, sharing the love of English Country Dance and early music. Paul was enchanted. He met Martha there, and she suggested the summer camp in Plymouth Mass., where there was an early music week. I was at that week – that was where I met Paul.
We were all in each other’s lives from then on, story on story. Nothing like playing music and dancing together! Paul and I got married and Martha danced an English dance with us at our wedding, as well as playing a recorder solo as part of the wedding. Later she met the love of her life at a recorder school where he was a student. He had just gotten divorced and they started dating. Paul and I had moved to Vermont by then – he went back to NY to play music with the pros, and met Dick during his time there. Declared Dick “dreamy.” Martha and Dick were married and Paul and I played at their wedding. Time passed. Paul died. Dick died. Martha more or less lost her mind when she lost Dick, but finally came back to herself and the city. She and I spent huge amounts of time together, getting more and more close. In her 90’s, Martha started to drift, and her nephews and nieces (she called them her niblets) convinced her to move to a home near where they lived, near Amherst. She was there when COVID hit. Her hope was to live to vote Trump OUT. The niblets could not visit her because of COVID restrictions. She had to rehome her two beloved cats because the person who had been caring for them were also shut out of the home. She died at 93, alas before the election.
There were some exchanges of memories of her with the early music world. Two years before there had been a massive memorial for another early musician I had gone to college with. I’m sure there would have been at least as big a memorial for her if not for COVID. I don’t know if everyone will remember when we’re back to being able to sing, play, and dance together. I’m beyond dancing anyway – being too badly balanced to do it. It’s a strange drifting away, evaporating into the ether. I couldn’t even see Martha through the window …