Bleak night in the West End: A peaceful carol service is disrupted…

Bleak night in the West End: A peaceful carol service is disrupted…


norman lebrecht

December 20, 2013

Our ex-BBC colleague Sally-Anne Thomas was singing cheerily last night in the Church of St-Martin-in-the Fields on Trafalgar Square when the world and its woes intruded on the festive season. Here’s her report:


st martin


Peaceful carol concert at St Martin’s-in-the Fields. First half disrupted by sound of sobbing — turns out someone’s been taken ill. The announcement comes, ‘Is there a Doctor in the…?’ Speaker doesn’t know what to say. ‘House?’, ‘audience?’ ‘congregation?’

Programme hastily rearranged. Second half is marked by sounds of police cars and ambulances racing through Trafalgar Square.

Towards the end, a missile is hurled through one of the windows on the St Martin’s Lane side, showering us with debris. It’s a china mug, which shatters. My cheek is lightly scratched by shrapnel. Rest of the church go on singing a comedy version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.

In the pub afterwards we discover about the ceiling collapse at the Apollo nearby. Two people try to steal our programme. For a carol concert? My companion tells me that three men lined up at the urinals in the gents all burst into harmonic song when he was there. On the way home I have to run the gamut of lots of tiny black mice on the platform at Charing Cross tube. A drunk couple take each other’s shoes off on the train. Back at the house, a moody looking fox is lurking in the front garden. Love living in London…



  • squirrel says:

    that’s almost as bad as living in NYC

  • Brian says:


  • Peter says:

    I blame the parents.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    My wife and I, on our honeymoon in 1979, attended a noontime concert at St. Martin’s. We were enchanted, not only with the music as it was performed, but the fact that the series even existed. And it has done so for such a long period of time! Bravo!

    We’re from the USA, and I must say, every single person we encountered on our one month honeymoon in the UK – we got as far as Bath to the west and Inverness to the north, based in London and travelling by BritRail all the way – was lovely and helpful.

    Sweet and unforgettable memories are what we brought home with us.

    That being said, times, I guess, have changed. But, and I’m addressing this to Sally-Anne, keep a good thought, dear. We live in a big city too – San Francisco – and things can certainly get a bit dicey sometimes.

    What you do, singing beautiful music to the soulful benefit of all who might hear you, is golden.

    Just keep an eye out over your shoulder at night in London (which is my all-time favorite city in the world, with the one exception of my home town, SF) and chalk the St. Martin’s incident up to a gaggle of drunken yobbos trying to impress each other. As for traveling on the Tube: I think you would feel right at home riding on SF’s MUNI system.

    -Cheers and happy holidays from Greg in SF

  • Alison says:

    Attempted theft of a carol concert programme, assault with a china mug (must have been damn heavy), dangerous mice in the underground (risk of bubonic plague perhaps?), foxes with a bad attitude?

    Just who has been drinking, exactly?

  • Sally-Anne Thomas says:

    Thank you Greg, wise words! Happy Holidays to you too.

    And Alison, I have witnesses for everything but the fox… I actually NEEDED a drink when I got home.

    The mug looked like an ordinary pottery one and had a logo on it, but was too shattered for us to see what it was. I don’t know if the church staff called the police. It came through one of those leaded panes at the back with a tremendous crash. I truly thought it was a grenade or a petrol bomb at first. People immediately below the window were showered with glass and were very shocked. I was just flicked with a bit of china! When we left, we saw that the ‘perpetrator’, as my companions insisted on calling him, must have been quite a way from the window, because of the railings, so it was a pretty impressive throw. A fast bowler, I would guess.

    The first attempted-progamme-nicker was very drunk, the second, it turned out, had been at the concert and wanted to look something up.

    Incidentally, the music was wonderful!