Melba Hall free lunchtime concert – 25th March

Something a little different on the menu for Melba Hall’s free lunchtime concerts is always a welcome surprise. It was great to see that the London Klezmer Quartet drew such a large crowd – even if it did seem like a few members of said crowd had become a travelling fan club. Despite some technical difficulties, the quartet were mostly up-beat and played a wide range of tunes interspersed with a few songs.

I did wonder a little whether this was quite the right venue for such a group – though they certainly seemed unfazed by the wide stage and hushed audience. The problem was that all felt the need to be on their best behaviour, to applaud at the right times and to keep any extraneous body movement to a minimum. Something of an oxymoron when the music is so intrinsically linked to dancing! I certainly found myself jiggling away in my seat, and would much prefer to have been in a bar or at a festival. When the audience did join in with clapping, it was almost apologetic.

The group played with ease of ensemble and complete mastery of technique, but seemed just a little flat at times. Though this was probably a result of the group’s rather hectic touring schedule, I nevertheless left wanting a bit more. The concert’s musical highlight was certainly the set of two tunes group members Susi Evans and Carol Isaacs had written while in Thailand (of all places). Complete with a pithy introduction from Susi, the tunes were fresh, buoyant and just unusual enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

I, as one of the un-initiated, felt that I wanted to know a little more about the history of Klezmer music than the program an general banter provided, but I was probably in the minority. Bass player Indra Buraczewska’s songs were a wonderful addition, featuring her remarkably low voice to great effect in a hilarious song about potatoes. The relative similarity of the instrumental tunes might have been broken up a little with one or two more songs featuring other members of the group.