BY TOM NETHERLAND
SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER
Havilah Justice grew up on the violin. Classical music lessons began at age 6. Younger sisters Heather, Abigail and Tabitha enlisted as well.
“Then we heard Celtic music,” Havilah Justice said. “We thought, ‘well, we love this.’”
And so since 2003 various incarnations of Celtic bands led by sisters Justice followed. Now they’re Maidens IV. See them on July 30 and 31 during the Virginia Highlands Festival’s Celtic Weekend, which runs July 29-31 in Abingdon. They join such Celtic acts as Rathkeltair, Tempest and Appalachian Highlanders.
“We’re real excited,” Havilah Justice, Maidens IV singer and violinist as well as manager, said by phone from their home in Loudonville, Ohio. “When you’re on the circuit you hear about the other bands but never get to hear them.”
Odds are good that many a Celtic devotee eagerly awaits Maidens IV.
Formed by Havilah and Heather Justice as Maidens II in 2003, the band has since recorded four energetic albums. A new album is due in September. Listen to them in order and striking changes from album to album resound.
“We sounded so young (on “Charm & Fire,” their first album),” Havilah Justice said. “Sometimes I can’t believe it was me. It was a different sound altogether. But it’s still very much us.”
Reasons aplenty explain the stark changes in sound of Maidens IV.
“When we started up as Maidens II we styled it to fit the gigs we played,” Havilah Justice said. “It was like medieval Irish music, a medieval flare. We had violin and vocals.”
Sister Abigail Justice joined in 2005 and thus the band became Maidens III. Then with the addition of youngest sister Tabitha and a change to Maidens IV, the band’s sound finally reached their initial Celtic vision.
“When we added the guitar, the sound started to flourish,” Justice said. “Now we play more what we’ve written as opposed to the more traditional songs. We do some traditional songs like ‘Danny Boy,’ but most of what we do is original.”
For instance, there’s the song “Dark Dancing Waves.” Frenzied violins couple with a strings ablaze guitar for a Celtic attack that’s equal parts melodic and mesmerizing.
The band’s originality stretches to the stage but beyond the music.
“Our mother makes our dresses,” Justice said. “Each year she’ll ask us what colors we want, what style. We try to make everything work as a whole.”
To wit Maidens IV’s vividly colored dresses matches their music. Slower songs filter in, but they play a preponderance of quickly paced and happy sounding songs.
Showmanship resides alongside the music of Maidens IV.
“People don’t come to the concerts just to hear you,” Justice said.
So they dance on stage in time with the music.
“You have to live out the music that you play,” Justice said.
“It comes back to the joy and celebration that we try to bring out,” Justice said. “It’s all over our personalities. The costumes we wear, the way we dance, the music. It’s not just the music. It’s us.”
Tom Netherland is a freelance writer. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
» What: Virginia Highlands Festival Celtic Weekend
» Where: Abingdon Market Pavilion, Remsburg Drive, Abingdon
» When: July 29-31
» Admission: Free
» Info: (276) 623-5266
» Web/audio/video and five free MP3 downloads: www.maidensmusic.com
» Also: www.vahighlandsfestival.org
» July 29, 7:30 p.m., Kick-off Celtic Weekend Concert with Scythian
» July 30, 1 p.m., Appalachian Highlanders, Rathkeltair, Maidens IV, Solas and Tempest
» July 31, 11:30 a.m., Maidens IV, Tempest and Rathkeltair