In Memoriam: Mary Ruth “U.V.” Ray

mary ruth rayMary Ruth Ray (Aka”U.V”; Aka “Vi”) died Tuesday, January 29 at age 56 after a three year battle with cancer.  She was a world class viola player,  a founding member of the Lydian String Quartet and an artist in residence at Brandeis University for more than 3 decades.  Others knew her better and longer than me,  but she was a friend and a follower of this blog.  I refer you to her biography page on the Brandeis University web site, and obituary in the Boston Globe.   The list of recordings and Grammy nominations is particularly impressive.  One blogger described her playing as demonstrative of quiet excellence; that describes her perfectly as a human being as well.

I am not one for eulogies and she did not want any.  I will close with an expression of deepest sympathy to her family, friends and professional colleagues, and a repeat of a past memorial post from last fall that was one her favorites from this blog.  I have lost too many friends and family this year,  and now another bright light has gone out.

In Memoriam: Life, Death and Leaves

  (originally posted Sept 29,, 2012)

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”–Albert Camus

It has been a difficult week as three people I know died.  They were an 82-year-old uncle whose death had been anticipated, a 59-year-old work colleague whose demise was an unexpected shock, and most tragically, the 29-year-old son of one of my poker buddies whose death from illness had been feared for some time.

Here is an elegy to these lost souls with the only piece of poetry I ever wrote which I would deem appropriate.  It’s well over 35-years old–the sort of thing one could only write in one’s youth.

The Leaves

Words ©1976, 2012  Mark Sackler

Sit and look at the leaves,

Amber arms descending from October’s trees.

Covering delicate grasses,

sweeping the highway,

bedding the rain,


Solemn songs to life departed,

Sit and look at the leaves.


Time Out: Remembering Dave Brubek

“I like to play  dangerously… where you’re going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven’t created before.”–Dave Brubek

(Note:  The title of this post provides an apt, if inadvertent double entendre.  I have used the title preface “Time Out” for posts that don’t readily fit into my existing threads.  “Time Out” also just happens to be the title of The Dave Brubek Quartet’s signature album.  It was issued in 1959 and became the first million selling jazz album ever.  It is one of the greatest classics of the genre).

Brubek on the cover of Time, November 1954.  NO! I do not remember it, I was four years old.

Brubek on the cover of Time, November, 1954.

I never met the man, yet somehow I knew him.     In one of the choral groups I sang with in high school we performed a Brubek composition (yes he wrote choral music, too).   Our director actually tried to get Brubek, who lived in a neighboring town,  to make a guest appearance to conduct the piece at our concert.  He was unavailable.  I never gave it much thought then, though Brubek’s Greatest Hits was the first jazz album I owned–and in fact the only jazz in my collection until I was in my forties.  I did not see him perform live until I was in my 50’s and he in his 80’s.

Below are two videos, courtesy of the Litchfield Jazz Festival, where I saw Dave Brubek perform twice.  The first video is a promotional piece that begins with Brubek performing in the 2005 festival.   In the shot of the audience applause that follows the visual of Brubek you’ll see two audience members stand up near the back.  I’m pretty sure the partially obscured one farthest back is me.  In the second video, taped at the 2008 festival, NPR interviews Brubek and Paquito D’Rivera.  There was no seating in this tent.  I was standing in the front row, about fifteen feet from Brubek during the entire interview.  I witnessed history that day.

Dave Brubek was an icon, a living legend.  He was not just a great artist, he was one of the great ambassadors for the arts.  He died yesterday, one day short of his 92nd birthday, in the same hospital where my wife was born.  So near, and yet so far away.

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