The recent obituary of Martin Friedmann (Feb. 27, 2019) was very interesting to me. For one thing, according to the given dates—his birth in Vienna, 1929, then the family’s emigration to the United States in 1940—I could place him at about eleven years of age, when I first noticed him soon after the Friedmans’ arrival in Goshen, Indiana. Martin was sitting beside his mother on a piano bench. It was his job to be reading the musical score she also was reading, so he could turn the pages for her at the correct moment as she played. She accompanied the 8th Street Mennonite Church choir for its practice and performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” I sang in the bass section.
The Friedmanns were among the many trying to escape Nazi Germany during WWII. Mennonite congregations sponsored such people, and thus the Friedmanns came to northern Indiana where a house awaited them in Goshen. One way in which they responded was to share their highly-trained musical talents. Being ten years older than Martin I didn’t learn to know him and I lost track of the Friedman family.
Fast forward about 70 years to San Juan County, Washington. At home on Waldron Island, I noticed the name Martin Friedmann in a newspaper article. He was described as first violinist in the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. I decided to inquire with a telephone call. After confirming our identities we shared far-reaching and emotionally charged reminiscences.
Soon after, it was my good fortune to be able to attend the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, where Martin was featured. Following the performance, Martin, his brother John, and I, along with my friend Millie Thorson, enjoyed a spirited reunion and wide-ranging visit.
Throughout my life, I’ve had occasion to recall the Friedmanns and their safe arrival in Goshen. The child Martin has been the focus of my story, how he sat alongside his mother, and, though quite young, could read that demanding musical score, keeping the place and turning the pages for her while her hands were busy playing the piano keys. When Martin died he was in his 90th year. I am in my 100th.