Press release from Concert Promoters at St Martin’s

The Church of the ‘Ever Open Door’ Evicts Long-Term Musical Partners

St Martin-in-the-Fields, the iconic royal parish church in Trafalgar Square, has expelled all of its long-standing independent musical ensembles based at the church, excluding them from any meaningful role there in the future.

The move threatens the survival of several independent ensembles and will cause further hardship for the hundreds of freelance musicians they employ, at a time when the entire music and entertainment sector is facing devastation.

In the early 1990s, the ensembles played a crucial role in creating a commercially and artistically successful concert series at the church. They sustained it over a period of almost 30 years, through numerous crises, including riots in Trafalgar Square and 9/11.

As well as bringing joy to hundreds of thousands of locals, visitors and tourists with their candlelight concerts, the ensembles have generated millions of pounds through hire fees and ticket sales to enable the church’s charitable work.

At the outset of the COVID-19 lock-down, the ensembles contacted St Martin’s several times to pledge help to rebuild the series. There was no response. Then on 7 July, the church’s Director of Music, Dr Andrew Earis, informed them by email that once musical activities were able to resume, a new programme involving ‘in-house ensembles’ and ‘new partnerships’ would be implemented. For the ensembles, despite their long-standing relationship, the only hope offered was that ‘there may still be some opportunities for the hiring of St Martin’s in the future’. One brief meeting was allowed on 29 July to discuss this, after which the church refused any further dialogue. It also dismissed appeals that 58 concert contracts covering the period March – August this year might be reinstated once conditions allowed.

After several articles appeared in the press, the Reverend Dr Sam Wells appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme to defend what he called “the reputation of St Martin’s as a whole”.  Asked if he regretted the treatment of the ensembles, he said “If that conversation could have begun in a better way, I apologise”. He was, however, adamant that the Church’s plans would not change.

Peter G Dyson, Musical Director of The Belmont Ensemble said: “After nearly 30 years performing over 800 concerts with my ensemble at St Martin’s, this is the most devastating news at the worst possible time. Freelance musicians and orchestras are on their knees and to kick them when they are down during a global pandemic is appalling and insensitive behaviour.  We have worked tirelessly hand-in-hand with St. Martin’s to create a commercially and artistically successful concert series. We offered to help them rebuild, but they have not even had the common decency to respond. I implore them to reconsider, otherwise this will sound the death-knell for many independent orchestras”.