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Discovering London: Candlelight Concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields

Updated on March 29, 2016

So Much to Explore in London's Cultural Scene

Whether you are a seasoned traveller or a Londoner, there is always more to discover in London, even those activities that you may discount as “tourist attractions”.

In my twenty years as a London resident, I have only been inside St Martin-in-the-Fields a couple of times. Shame on me! The reason is because it's in Trafalgar Square, so you do end up thinking that everywhere you go is full of tourists.

If you are planning a visit to London you obviously can't miss out on the main attractions like Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and so on.

However, it is worth finding out what cultural events are taking place during your stay. This applies to Londoners too. In fact, us Londoners can sometimes take our city for granted, and with such a huge supply of cultural events you are likely to skip or postpone visits to museums or attend concerts thinking they will always be there.

When I went to St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square some years ago, I listened to one of their free lunchtime concerts. You can see the programme of events on the St Martin's website.

The venue lends itself to a variety of music concerts and is particularly suited to classical music, because of its excellent acoustics.

Trafalgar Square Aerial View

I took this picture of Trafalgar Square in 2010, what a magnificent view
I took this picture of Trafalgar Square in 2010, what a magnificent view | Source

History of St Martin-in-the-Fields

The building of this church can be traced back to 1726, on the site of previous churches, the first of which was dated 1222, when it was surrounded by fields. It was designed by James Gibbs.

St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, Trafalgar Square

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Lunchtime Concerts

Lunchtime concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields are free, so they are an excellent opportunity for either weary travellers or stressed Londoners to take a break in the middle of the day (yes, some people take advantage of the quiet atmosphere to have a nap!).

Programmes feature composers from Mozart to Borodin, from Debussy to Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Bach, Haydn and Mendelssohn and so on.

Performers from all over the world book themselves way in advance (at least a year or more) to be able to play at St Martin's. The calibre of the performers is very high, which makes these free lunchtime concerts a must.

In the morning, afternoon and early evening St Martin's is dedicated to prayer, and at lunchtime and in the evening it becomes a concert venue.

St Martin-in-the-Fields from Above

Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery on the left and St Martin-in-the-Fields on the right
Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery on the left and St Martin-in-the-Fields on the right | Source

Candlelight Concerts

The true magic of St Martin-in-the-Fields happens at night with its candlelight concerts. It's always better to book in advance as these concerts are very popular.

I attended a candlelight concert featuring Mozart, Bach and Handel with the chamber ensemble London Concertante. Amazon Local kindly offered me a ticket. The programme had some instantly recognisable pieces like Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and lesser known movements.

The idea of having candlelight concerts is to make the whole atmosphere more intimate and authentic. Everybody in the audience was extremely quiet and respectful during the performance.

I had often seen promotional posters for Vivaldi's Four Seasons by candlelight at St Martin's, and had often thought “I will definitely book tickets to see it”, but never got round to it. This programme, in particular, is a firm favourite and features often in the church's programme. Because of that, you end up thinking it will always be there, and that there will be more occasions to go.

However, in life, if you don't take action you are likely to have regrets in the future. Going to a candlelight classical music concert has been one of the highlights of the year.

London Concertante's Music


Antonin Dvorak score
Antonin Dvorak score | Source

Nothing Beats Live Music

Digital music cannot compete with live music: seeing classically-trained musicians is a spectacle to behold, watching them in awe as they perform complex scores skillfully and at lightning speed.

Many of the orchestras and ensembles performing at St Martin's rely on the box office ticket sales to support themselves, as they may not receive sponsorship or funding.

It is important, therefore, that we collectively show our appreciation for these musicians and support them by going to their concerts, so that we can secure the future of the younger generations of musicians.

Don't Forget the Café

The Cafe in the Cript below St Martin is also worth a visit. Before an extensive renovation, it was almost a best kept secret in London. I have fond memories of going to this dark, cavernous café and spending hours in their brass rubbing section. Brass rubbing is a technique where you can create drawings by rubbing some coloured crayons over a brass relief, featuring various characters (for example, Shakespeare). It's a great activity to keep children entertained, but even adults can enjoy it under the pretense is a relaxing, almost meditative, activity.

Do you like classical music? Then don't forget to pay a visit to St Martin-in-the-Fields in London and get your classical music fix.

London Concertante - Bach Concerto


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