St Martin-in-the-Fields shuts its doors to music

St Martin-in-the-Fields shuts its doors to music


norman lebrecht

July 27, 2020

Several London ensembles received an email last month from the celebrated church in Trafalgar Square saying that outside promoters would no longer be permitted to give concerts in the venue.

That leaves tourists and city workers without music at lunchtime, ending a tradition that goes back to the mists of time.

What would Neville Marriner have made of it?

A list of the expelled ensembles can be found on this petition.

Chris Grist, artistic director of London Concertante, tells us: ‘I was so disheartened to hear of the news from St Martin-in-the-Fields; the arts industry needs to be opening doors right now rather than closing them. The arts industry and musicians have been incredibly creative in reaching out to their audiences digitally and I too want to give culture-lovers that vital opportunity to experience the live performances that they have craved throughout this period of lockdown. Therefore, I have decided to, very literally, open our doors at my home and London Concertante’s head office, as we invite smaller socially distanced audiences to enjoy a summer series from my garden.’

London Concertante were due to perform at St Martin-in-the-Fields on August 1; the Secret Garden Concerts series will start on August 2.




  • Maria says:

    Probably do not have the volunteers to deep clean the church to make it safe for an audience to have confidence to attend, and have it ready for a worshiping congregation to feel condfident and safe to attend. Many churches are struggling to open for that reason, and can’t afford a fitm to come in and ckean the churches after every gathering. Those having weddings and funerals in my church have to pay for the cleaning after only a maximum of 30 allowed.
    Plus there won’t be so many tourists in London given the still relatively high rate of the virus and the theatres closed.

    • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

      ==Chris Grist, artistic director of London Concertante

      Good for him ! Impressive what he’s doing, opening his own property.

    • Anon says:

      Nothing to do with cleaning – It’s a power grab by an organist with an over inflated ego, pure and simple.

  • M McAlpine says:

    This petition is alright as long as everyone signing it agrees to chip in with the work / costs involved in cleaning the church to make it Covid-safe for concerts.

    • Anon says:

      The groups being expelled have generated millions of pounds of income for the church over the past decades, I think that should be more than enough to cover cleaning costs

      • Gerry McDonald says:

        They certainly have. Promoting concerts at this venue is definitely NOT a cheap alternative to the major concert halls!

    • Anonymous says:

      I hear the church has received a huge government subsidy so no longer needs the income from the fantastic and dedicated ensembles who have been many people through the churches doors. With all the wonderful work that St Martins does I can’t quite believe they are going to make so many musicians lives a lot harder than they already are! This is a time to co-operate not amputate!

  • Emil says:

    What’s the rationale? And is that permanent or temporary?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Did you REALLY ask those questions? Ignorance used to be bliss. Nowadays ignorance is death.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        Is he not trying to remedy his ignorance? Why not attempt to enlighten him instead of being so sillily apocalyptic about it?

  • CA says:

    If it’s a matter of enough volunteers I’m sure the congregation is big enough to have sufficient volunteer force self-identify in this time of crisis so that it can reopen to worshippers. Unless nowadays everyone is just content to get their religion and culture from behind a screen, which is total nonsense in my opinion and not a substitute for anything of real substance. This does not bode well for churches or their music patrons.

  • Nicholas Boyd-Vaughan says:

    I’m not weighing in on the issue at large, but I had the pleasure of running the St Martin’s Lunchtime Concert Series for four years (which was started in 1940). The series is organised by St Martin’s concerts team, rather than external promoters, so I doubt very much that these will stop, and I have heard/read nothing to suggest they would.

    Was this comment an assumption, or is there a source for this?

  • Edgar Self says:

    Over-inflated egos are an occupational hazard for organists in consequence of bellows and windbox exposure. That’s why mechanical engineering outweighs music in their resumes.

    Dr. Albert Schweitzer, great-uncle of Jean-Paul Sartre, with triple doctorates in medicine, theology, and music, is excluded from this diagnosis, as are Paul Jacobs the Younger, Karl Richter, and blind Helmut Walcha. By coincidence, I saw all four of them perform, all but Richter on the organ; he conducted and played harpsichord in a Bach family program the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. I suspend the rules for Virgil Fox because of his superb Andre Campra “Rigaudon” and Brahms’s “Eleven Chorale Preludes After J. S. Bach”, his final music, Op. 121.

    I wondrt what has become of Schweitzer’s famous hospital in Lambourine, where he kept in practice on a jungle-proofed vertical piano with pedal-board like Alkan’s Erard in Paris. Has he suffered literal iconoclasm also?

  • christopher storey says:

    I hesitate to enter into a religious discussion, but it does seem to me that the Anglican Church has a wish for extinction, as the events at St Martin, Ripon, and Sheffield show. One only has to go into any Parish Church now on a Sunday to see the pitiful level of support now prevailing. Whether this is because the traditional congregations have been driven away by the happy clappy brigade , the signs of peace and similar embarrassments , and the general hypocrisy indulged in by some incumbents, I do not know, but unless the trend is reversed, and reversed rapidly, there is unlikely to be a future for the Established Church

    • Vaquero357 says:

      “Happy clappy brigade”? A term I am not familiar with!

      • Hmus says:

        Seems to be a British term for a variant of the disease that overcame Roman Catholic music practices in the US back in the 1960’s – the ‘folk mass’ crew with the strummed guitars and the Singing Nun with her infernal “Domini-a-deek-a-deeka, Dominic-a-deek-deek-deek”.

        • Paul Brownsey says:

          Not only Roman Catholic Churches. Protestant churches may go in for it, to, and when they do they are apt to be especially keen on Kumbaya.

          …Was it not “Dominique-nique-nique”?–I knew a woman at the time who made a joke about it being a song about knickers.

  • Peter Bassano says:

    How sad, a perfect venue for concert promotion outside of the S. bank and SJSS

  • Jeff says:

    I’m still not sure why this current move by SMITF means there will be an end to music there.

  • Richard M says:

    I’m sure concerts will continue. The issue is that the ensembles who have worked here regularly for many years will not be welcomed back. Work the players had come to rely on will cease to exist- it’s such bad timing and so sad for all involved. I hope this isn’t going to become a way of undercutting musicians by paying lower fees to new graduates.

  • Mark Stringer says:

    There is some information about all this on the St. Martin’s website. Apparently, fuller details will be announced in due course.

  • Ann says:

    Most of the ‘open & transparent’ information being fed to the public about ‘open opportunities’ are a hogwash cover story. The smoke-&-mirrors act is the only thing that’s becoming very transparent indeed