Boston, Aug 2018

Following the footsteps of JOHN WILLIAMS

Boston Symphony Hall,...

...home of the BOSTON POPS,...

...where John Williams was Principal Conductor for 19 years.

Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade

The shell annually hosts the BOSTON POPS ORCHESTRA for the Fourth of July celebration...

...and has often seen Conductor Laureate John Williams lead the orchestra.

The Arthur Fiedler Footbridge,...

dedicated to John Williams' predecessor at the BOSTON POPS.

"Treesong" (2001) by John Williams,
inspired by an old metasequoia tree in the Boston Public Garden

For quite a few years it's been my habit to walk in the Boston Public Garden as often as I can, and it has been during these walks that I found myself stopping before a particular tree and pausing to admire it.

The tree is a beautiful specimen of the Chinese dawn redwood, or metasequoia, and over time my fascination with it grew into a full-fledged infatuation. I later learned that the dawn redwood dates from the Mesozoic era, and until as recently as the 1940s it was thought to be extinct. Fossils of its presence in the deep past did exist, but when live specimens were discovered in China, the tree became referred to as the "living fossil.” Standing before the tree one can sense its age and feel its wisdom.

I kept this affair of the heart very much to myself for several years until one day when I was walking in Boston's Arnold Arboretum with Dr. Shiu-Ying Hu, the Harvard-based botanist, to whom I'd been recently introduced. During our stroll we casually paused in front of a large tree that I hadn't looked at closely enough to recognize immediately. Pointing to the tree, Dr. Hu explained that this tree was the oldest metasequoia in North America and that she had planted it in the late 1940s using seeds she had brought with her from China. I was thunderstruck by this coincidence, and when I told her of "my” metasequoia in the Public Garden, she informed me that the younger tree I loved so much was also one of her children.

Recently, when I was given the opportunity to write a piece for Gil Shaham, I thought of Dr. Hu and her tree. The result is TreeSong for violin and orchestra. The piece doesn't aspire to "describe” the tree per se, but it does attempt, in my mind at least, to connect, to the degree possible, the great beauty and dignity of this magnificent conifer with the elegance and grace of Gil Shaham and his art.

John Williams

John Williams and Gil Shaham, violin

A fan

© MH