The Burchfield Brothers are not the typical musical duo. Jon and Ben Burchfield use classical guitar, midi-marimba, Irish whistles and audio recorders to perform ensemble style music. They are lifelong touring musicians.
On Thursday at 12:30 p.m., the Burchfield Brothers performed at the Mesa Arts Center’s Spring Out To Lunch concert series in Wells Fargo Garden.
Their music is primarily instrumental with no vocalizations beyond whistling. They are storytellers — using humorous anecdotes about their lives to interact with the audience. Each song has its own prologue; a tale that explains their personal connections to the music.
The audience consisted of an older crowd. The music had a nostalgic ring of the past. Jon and Ben took great pleasure in sharing jokes and extolling their travels.
Ben spoke of his college years and his mastering of the midi-marimba. Their rendition of “Flight of the Bumblebee” was inspired. Jon told the audience about learning to play “Clare de Lune” on acoustic guitar. He mentioned their father’s fondness of the classical piece and that their nickname for the song was “Moonshine.”
The show featured an entertaining mix of musical influences. They played pieces ranging from classical, jazz and gospel.
One of their most impressive sets included a rendition of “Wayfaring Stranger,” an old spiritual about a lonesome soul journeying through life. They sang about a young hiker in the Appalachian mountains who whistled as he walked the trails. They described the young man’s whistling as “hauntingly beautiful.”
Ben proceeded to display his own whistling capabilities. He ranged from high to low pitch and the sound reverberated beautifully through the garden theater. The amazed silence from the audience made the brothers grin.
Their innovation and originality brought a new spin on musical craftsmanship. The brothers played an ode to Scotland with an acoustic guitar and a midi-marimba. They took a brief turn into traditional Christmas songs, but their last performance proved to be a crowd favorite.
Jon worked as a performer in a hotel restaurant where he performed songs primarily from the 1930s and 1940s. He considers Charlie Chaplin to be one of his inspirations.
In honor of Jon’s history, the brothers did a rendition of the well-known Nat King Cole song, “Smile.” John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons wrote the lyrics in 1954 despite the instrumental being composed by Charlie Chaplin for a 1936 movie called, “Modern Times.” The song featured in the 1994 movie “My Girl 2” starring Anna Chlumsky and Jamie Lee Curtis.
The Burchfield Brothers were an unexpected surprise. Their musical talents, charming personas and adventurous life history make the Burchfield Brothers a delight to watch.
Reach the reporter at Stephanie.Tate@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @StephanieITA