A church with no parish on a wet lunchtime in Chichester – not somewhere you would expect stimulation for writing, perhaps. But experiencing the thrilling She’koyokh klezmer band led me to some thoughts about books, writers and readers.
The band came on stage in fine style. Your eye was taken by the violinist in rich red satin and cobwebby lace, or the clarinettist – a white-suited woman in a glossy black hat. You might favour the django guitarist with Roma-dark hair or the bass player – a Georgian vampire or pirate with his long hair, waistcoat and watch chain. An appearance of otherness, of exciting, glamorous colour, of being more draws you in. That’s what I’d want right from outset in in a book cover – to reflect my individuality of voice .
Then there was the theatre of the performance. It was heightened; it was hyper-real – but not just for show. The two young women duelled across the stage, smiling and reacting to each other’s playing. The young men nodded frowned, responded -there was an exchange going on about the music itself. I would wish that from my writing – to have drama and a certain degree of showiness to pull the reader inside the world I’ve made for sharing.
One of the most popular moments was the opportunity to join in. I had never sung the chorus before – but the melody was familiar enough to follow. It had a shape I could recognise – but enough difference from tunes I already knew to be entertaining. My writing needs to do this on both structural and emotional scales – the pattern of the story telling needs to be there for the reader to follow, and the music to bring their hearts along for the ride.
Finally, there was the exuberance of different traditions brought together: it’s not every day you hear Yiddish sung in a neo-classical preacher’s church. I loved how Greek and Turkish music conjoined beautifully. It brought both vigour and delight. I long for my stories to bring disparate strands together in a satisfying whole.
I believe that’s what in concert really means.