She'Koyokh: Klezmer music

She'Koyokh: Klezmer music

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What an amazing mix of genres the Cambridge Music Festival is turning out to be. Wednesday night in the darkening cloisters of Jesus Chapel the mood was somber and passionate – a beautiful contemplative evening of superb sounds from the classical past. Last night the Sounds Green concert featured a band of musicians playing with abandon in the open air.For the hundreds of listeners who skipped the football for a 6:30pm start, it was an exhilarating evening. Even getting there was especially lovely. The walk through the grandeur of the Botanic Gardens must be one of the most uplifting entrances to any venue. 

For the hundreds of listeners who skipped the football for a 6:30pm start, it was an exhilarating evening. Even getting there was especially lovely. The walk through the grandeur of the Botanic Gardens must be one of the most uplifting entrances to any venue.

In the perfect blue of the early evening, families hurried to pitch their spot on the vast lawn in front of the tented podium. Children, generously, are free and all were raring to go -- to what is probably their first concert. Whilst parents ambled along slowly – a rare chance to see the splendor of the world-famous garden in a crepuscular glow, flowering bushes and internationally sourced trees crowded into a shade, as Handel’s famous song had it - all in full bloom and leaf. The combined scent of thousands of perfectly produced plants from all over the globe was only part of the heavenly experience.

On stage, surprised by the large turnout, was She’Koyakh (means’ Nice One! In Yiddish) an intriguing group with players from Sweden, Turkey, Romania, Serbia Bulgaria and all based in Britain. In fact they’re the most famous Klezmer band in the country and from early beginnings in East London markets in the 00s now command top venues and have four albums out. 

The tradition they draw on is complicated – Balkan, Sephardic Jewish and Ashkenazy alike, along with the village songs of time out of mind, from Serbia to Turkey; complaining Jewish mothers, worried fathers, girls on the marriage market determined to take their time, the themes are timeless. Surprisingly, all these countries, often deadly political enemies, create the themes for this rich texture of the music. 

The result is a rip-roaring sound. There’s percussion of course and an accordion for the essential sound of Klezmer. But this band has a double bass for deep satisfying registers a lively gypsy-style violin (yes - a further influence of the unique sound) along with a deft guitar  and fabulous gutsy singer. Superbly played by a brilliant Susi Evans, done out in a fabulously androgynous circus cum jazz outfit with bowler hat, the clarinet is the essential for this exhilarating ensemble. And unique to the sound is the Guida, a kind of Balkan bagpipe blown casually from time to time as the air fills its bellows.

 

Usually the Sounds Green concerts do manage to encourage a bit of cautious dancing – and can usually count on a collection of eight-year-old girls to join in. Last night it was different. Adults were on their feet with partners and without. Soon there were more and as the band got going irresistibly, chains of dancers hand in hand were doing the traditional steps and moving round the Botanical Gardens in a way probably  never seen before.Charles Darwin and his bushy-bearded Victorian confrères, the founders, would have got a shock, but it’s a huge credit to the organizers of Sounds Green and indeed the Cambridge Music Festival, that the atmosphere is now so relaxed and joyful. Picnics from home were once de rigeur if you wanted anything to eat and drink. Now the event has Thirsty, Cambridge’s ground breaking pop-up stand–out purveyor of drink, dispensing artisanal beer and cloudy lemonade whilst another tent sold wholesome looking salads and burgers. 

Yet the infectious Klezmer music continued to inspire more dancers and as the evening sun began to set on this mini – holiday fiesta everyone was reluctant to leave – and determined to hear more of this intoxicating group.

Joe Stilgoe - Piano and talent combined for success

Joe Stilgoe - Piano and talent combined for success

Gould Trio ensemble produce a heavenly sound

Gould Trio ensemble produce a heavenly sound