Another London hall opens to concert audiences

Another London hall opens to concert audiences


norman lebrecht

September 15, 2020

St John’s Smith Square, which is situated in the heart of Government, has been working with the Culture Department to bring back live concerts with audience. Here’s how far they’ve got.

Following a successful pilot concert with a live audience in July, St John’s Smith Square are delighted to be able to welcome audiences back to enjoy live performances this Autumn. Between now and the end of 2020 a programme of 63 public concerts is planned. There will also be 50 digital events as part of the St John’s DIGITAL EXCHANGE programme, some of which are hybrid versions of concerts featured in the live programme and some of which are bespoke events created specifically for our digital audience….the programme for the month of October consists of 21 public concerts and 17 digital events.

Having launched the Digital Exchange programme back in July with our pilot concert featuring a live audience, organised in conjunction with the DCMS, The Gesualdo Six (previous SJSS Young Artists) give two performances with the trumpeter Matilda Lloyd including one where audiences are invited to simply ‘pay what they can afford’. The Young Musician’s Symphony Orchestra make a welcome return with a programme of Wagner and Beethoven. The wonderful Klais organ at St John’s is featured in a recital by the sub-organist of Westminster Abbey, Peter Holder whilst St John’s’ status as a still consecrated church is marked with a Sung Eucharist to mark the feast day of the patron saint of Westminster, St Edward the Confessor.



  • fflambeau says:

    No indication here of any safety precautions like masks and social distancing. This will soon fall apart.

    • I can reassure everyone that at St John’s Smith Square we have carried out a thorough risk assessment and have introduced a range of safety measures to ensure that audiences, artists and staff can engage with live music in a Covid-secure venue. Details of all the measures we are taking, along with FAQs about the procedures for visiting St John’s can be found on our website here We look forward to welcoming artists and audiences back to enjoy live music in St John’s Smith Square.

      Richard Heason
      St John’s Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HA

      • Doc Martin says:

        Unfortunately the prevalence of Sars-cov-2 among the 80+s and vulnerable groups, prevents me and otheres from attending any live concerts or opera, despite all the sanitizing etc. I much rather prefer to sit and watch a DVD of at home with a glass of John Jameson Green spot. Just getting to a venue in London if one does not live there, is an ordeal in itself.

    • K3vin says:

      A great example of joe public typically believing partial reporting of the press. A bit silly to assume a professional venue would fail to include details of their Covid-secure status and procedures.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Apparently some folk are having to tell a wee lie to get a cov-19 test booked. If you are low skilled or unemployed or play a fiddle, it seems it can be impossible, so some folk are saying they are key workers on the booking form.

    I hear folk in Twickenham had to give Aberdeen postcodes on the booking form to get a local appointment. Clearly the booking system is a shambles.

    Hancock claims most have only a 6 mile journey to make, my experience is more it’s like 20 miles or more. The booking system is centralised and NI postcodes seem to completely banjax it, my colleagues tell me some patients say they have to go to Glasgow, which involves flying from Belfast! Clearly no one will take a journey that long. Hence they are lots to booked tests on the system which will never happen.

    PHE claims a test capacity of 100,000/day has risen to 375,000/day by 10 September, however 125,000 of these are actually antibody tests not swab tests. So if the capacity for swab tests is claimed as 250,000/day there would be a spare capacity of 60,000/day. This does not explain the test backlog.

    The turn around time (TAT) is the time it takes for the test results to be reported. Last month in England, about 70% of test results were being reported within 48 hours. This has steadily dropped off, by 10 September the TAT reduced to 10.5% within 48 hours.

    The significance of this is it makes trace and trace impossible if a day is lost in reporting results. Trace and trace is a vital part of the public health jigsaw. Hancock has made a real Horlicks of it by outsourcing it to firms like Serco, who then subcontract track and trace to various call centre firms!

    Then we have Bojo’s Operation Moonshot aka Apollo 13! Hancock says they plan to mobilise every lab and diagnostics firm in UK by introducing “new rapid Point of Care tests”, which at present are still in development and untrialled. The problem with these is they claim 99% accuracy, 1% will give false positive. So if they were to test 60m, 600,000 would be false positives and would be self isolating needlessly. If the prevalence of Sars-cov-2 is low in the population this will reduce the test accuracy further.
    In addition Sars-cov-2 can have an incubation period up to 14 days, so an initial negative test could arise with someone incubating the virus with a viral load which cannot be detected.

    The current tests are missing about 20% false negatives, meaning some folk could be spreading it unknowing and because of the risks of false negatives, testing before an event like an opera or concert cannot replace social distancing. In any case as I explained, the virus can incubate up to 14 days, so you would need to test 5-7 days before and 5-7 days afterwards with further testing up to 28 days. Those who have recovered from cov-19 can still get a positive result some weeks afterwards as the test cannot distinguish between RNA fragments derived from live and dead virus.