Benslow Music Centre bravely returned to live action in July, and has since welcomed hundreds of people to residential courses and concerts. The complications involved must have been enormous, but when I arrived on Friday night, everything seemed fairly normal (given that masks and social distancing now look that way.) The evening meal was being served, and a cheery group had gathered for a weekend of study with the inimitable London Klezmer Quartet.
I was determined to hear LKQ’s opening concert, having been a judge on the 2020 Benslow competition, featuring klezmer composition. As part of this yearly competition, we usually hold a detailed workshop well in advance with the artists and composer finalists. But 2020 had other ideas, and we were forced simply to invite people to send us a bit of klezmer and see what happened next.
Out of this process one piece emerged very strongly – Whistler Medley by Durham student Will Dryland – and during this evening, its premiere both delighted the audience and satisfied the performers (not always a given on these occasions). What a joy this concert was, with its extraordinary musical range from touching melancholy to crazy toe-tapping. Afterwards, someone described it as ‘infectious’ – the first time I’ve heard that adjective used in a positive sense in a long while.