East Anglian film premiere brought to life George Butterworth – a man who might have become one of Britain’s foremost composers

The Corn’s Hall’s presentation of Stewart Hajdukiewicz’s biography of composer George Butterworth may not have been quite the world premiere, but it was only the third public outing for the film, and was attended by the director, so there was a palpable feeling of expectation in the packed auditorium.

Hadukiewiez’s film was a mix of archived footage and letters, expert commentary and superb performance, all of which brought to life a man who might have become one of Britain’s foremost composers, but whose life and career was cruelly cut short by the First World War. For while he was closely associated, in style and circumstance, with his friend Vaughan Williams, we have been left with only a fragmentary glimpse of what the composer Butterworth might have grown into.

So while did get to hear passages from his works The Banks of Green Willow and The Shropshire Lad, the greater part of film focuses on his extraordinary harvesting and curation of traditional folk songs and dance. What emerged is a touching portrait of lost composition, but also of one man amongst many, whose lives unlived cast a long shadow over the century in which their absence was painfully felt.

By David Vass