Boston orchestra to honor retiring harpist

Opening night for the Boston Symphony Orchestra will feature a tribute to retiring harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, the orchestra’s first and only African-American woman.

Hobson Pilot retired this summer after 40 years with the orchestra. But she will return to the stage at Symphony Hall Wednesday night as a soloist in the world premier of composer John Williams’ “On Willows and Birches.”

The orchestra says Williams wrote the piece as a tribute to Hobson Pilot, who’s considered among the top harp players of her time.

Hobson Pilot also will perform concerts next month at Symphony Hall and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The Philadelphia native told The Boston Globe that she never tried to make a political statement, instead showing “that playing music well had nothing to do with color.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.