- Last Updated on 10:59 AM 12/02/09
- BY The Gazette-Virginian
Justin Butterworth’s Saturday evening concert promises original compositions, a glimpse of Christmas, as well as Appalachian, film and classical forays delivered via a quartet of instruments.
Butterworth, who began playing the piano at age four, will tap his expertise on piano, guitar, mandolin and banjo during the 7 p.m. free concert at Trinity Episcopal Church in South Boston.
“I will play piano for a couple of pieces from movie soundtracks, ‘Amelie’ and ‘The Fountain,’” said the musician.
Also on the musical menu, an original composition Butterworth wrote for banjo, “Meadowlark,” and on guitar the audience may hear a Christmas carol, he added with a smile. Although he describes himself as “not a trained vocalist,” he has extensive experience with bands and will accompany himself during a selection of banjo, guitar and mandolin pieces.
A friend, Virginia Jenkins, who is a recent William & Mary College graduate and a trained vocalist, is expected to accompany Butterworth during several selections.
“The acoustics are wonderful at Trinity,” noted Butterworth. “I am looking forward to playing in a space like that, particularly the mood at night, dim, a nice evening of music.”
For Butterworth, also a William & Mary graduate, music has been a lifelong companion. While he majored in biology at W&M, his minor in music opened new avenues.
“In college I started playing Middle Eastern music on the oud,” he recalled. “I played mostly Turkish music. Then I played mandolin with the Appalachian Music Ensemble, playing shows for Williamsburg and students there. It was fun.”
His mandolin teacher in college, Pete Frostic, is in “a pretty popular bluegrass/Latin band” called Old School Freight Train.
Butterworth’s favorite musician, Chris Thile, is a mandolin player for Nickel Creek. “He’s the guy who inspired me to play the mandolin,” added Butterworth. “His composing and the way he plays blow my mind. His music challenges me to get better.
“Thile’s also in Punch Brothers Band, and he wrote a kind of classical piece -but played in bluegrass style - called ‘The Blind Leaving the Blind,’ a four-movement concerto.”
What’s next on Butterworth’s musical agenda?
“Next is the fiddle,” he quickly replies. “The fiddle is very social, lighthearted, you dance. It’s kind of rough in some aspects, as opposed to the violin,” he added, but the music appeals to him on a variety of levels.
Since beginning piano study at age four, Butterworth’s musical path has widened to include guitar, banjo and mandolin. As a teenager, it also included his first electric guitar and joining a heavy metal band.
“I was in two bands in high school, and we actually became pretty popular in the local area (Portsmouth), and even made money sometimes,” he added with a laugh.
Last summer, Butterworth played in an interpretative bluegrass band at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Working at the Kit Carson Museum, the Rayado Ruffians band members dressed in frontier-style garb, gave tours and played two or three shows a day. “We got to write songs and to perform for the scouts coming through,” he recalled. “It was a neat combination, acting, interpretation and music. Very interesting, very different.
“Music has been a huge part of my life,” he said. “It has given me expression, it’s something that is always there.
“It’s a wonderful form of art that conveys so much in so many styles. There’s so much music out there, things people are fusing like Latin and bluegrass. It’s an endless possibility for expression.”
Listening, composing, playing - particularly recently with bluegrass and old-timey music - play an important and enjoyable role in the musician’s life. “That’s an incredibly social kind of music,” he said of the old-time genre. “People just get together and play songs they know, and it’s a very traditional type of music. I’ve made so many friends playing that type of music. It’s wonderful; anywhere you go around here people are playing it. It is very accessible, both to play and to listen to.”
A Halifax resident, Butterworth is the son of Trinity and St. John’s Episcopal Church priest Gary Butterworth and wife Chris. Butterworth’s sister, Emma, is a student at Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C.