In Lieu of Flowers by Charles Williams

16 years ago your son, Danny helped me to give a gift of music to my parents. I am happy to have an opportunity to return the favor by giving this to his. I treasure my memories of him and consider him a singular human being that I was blessed to know as a friend. I wrote and recorded this waltz in 2002 that I dedicated to Danny. I'm glad to be able to share a slice of my life's intersection with your dear son with you.

I started a family tradition in the early 80s when I was in music school and too poor to afford a Christmas gift for my mom, who was also a musician. So instead, I would compose holiday themed songs, manipulate other musicians to sing and play on my recording, and then give it to my mom. I did this yearly until her death in 1996 from breast cancer. This particular song was one of her and my favorites. Every year I kept trying a different style setting for the annual composition. That year I decided to make it a celtic-tinged tune. The idea is a setting in an Scottish pub on a Yuletide night after a hard day's work at the local factory. Working class men are sitting and drinking while a tin whistle begins playing a tune....Then I imagined a fiddle joining in and the festive level rising. After the statement of the melody, a character enters. A lusty waitress, tough as nails in her right, and begins singing about the promise of the holiday season, but with a rough edge. I was trying to visualize a scene from musical.

So I called up Danny and asked him if he would do it and he said sure. He came over to my house where I had recording gear stacked in a corner of my living room. The song is actually a little challenging to just read and play in the moment, so when I put the music on the stand in front of him and gave him the tempo, he looked up at me and said, " you tricked me!" We both laughed. He said, "OK, put some coffee on, this may take awhile..." An hour later when we were done, Danny said, "hey, don't you pay the musicians around here?" I said, "Of course, what's your rate?" He answered, " How about a bagel?" So we went out for a bagel.....

After his death, I found the recording in my pile of stuff and listened to it. The lyric seemed strangely foreshadowing in retrospect. Almost like a message from him....It's odd how that can happen. I wrote it for my mom, but it has come to represent, to me, Danny in a larger context. Almost a calming voice to me now. Here is the text.

In The Highlands By and By

Oh lend me your ears, my brothers
Lend me your ears tonight
I've a message of Hope from the Highlands a yonder
A message from the King of Light
I dinna kin if the fight be over
I dinna kin if the King has won
I only know that the message from the Highlands a yonder
Is a message of a newborn son

Hallelujah, hallelujah
It's the song I'm singing
And the bells are ringing
In the Highlands by and by

Download In The Highlands By and By featuring Charles Williams, Daniel Pearl and Sue Wilkinson

Charles Williams