Apr 062011

Other London churches may be greater and grander but for me St Martin-in-the-Fields offers splendour on a more manageable scale. The name itself evokes visions of a London where the countryside was just a stone’s throw away from the centre of the city.

The front entrance of the church. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The present church was designed by James Gibbs. Work started in 1772 and the building was completed in 1722. Recently, the church has undergone a £36-million facelift by Eric Parry Architects, which won a Europa Nostra Award.

Part of the facelift turned the crypt into a bistro, a highly imaginative use of space and exposing the original brickwork lends considerable character, as do the headstones that form the floor.

The crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The church also plays host to musical concerts — evening concerts by candlelight, free lunchtime concerts and also jazz concerts in the crypt.

I was lucky enough to attend an evening concert during my trip to London.  The Belmont Ensemble of London, conductor Peter G Dyson, played works by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. With the strains of Baroque music filling the church’s opulent interior, it was not difficult to imagine being among London society of the 18th century, the women with their low-cut gowns, the men resplendent in their wigs and finery.

Ornate decor of St Martin-in-the-Fields. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The concert, and the magnificient setting, will live long in my memory, an experience to be treasured. My only regret was not to have been able to catch a concert featuring a choral work, such as the one on May 7, when The English Chamber Choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem.

That’s something to look forward to on my next trip.

Chancel window St Martin-in-the-Fields. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Mar 312011

A family bereavement saw me back in the UK last week for the funeral. The next few posts will have a distinctly British flavour, relating to my hometown of Stoke-on-Trent and London.

A week ago I attended an evening concert at St Martin-In-The-Fields Church, more about that in a subsequent post. During the intermission I went outside for a cigarette. The church frontage offers a vantage point from which to survey Trafalgar Square, the site of Nelson’s Column.

Nelson's Column, London, England. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Like most cities in the world, London has floodlit many of its famous old buildings. The domes of the National Portrait Gallery on the north side of the square were bathed in a soft light. But Trafalgar Square itself was shrouded in darkness. It struck me that it would be a good idea to illuminate the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson that stands atop Nelson’s Column.

When Nelson reportedly said: “I see no ships.” I am not bloody surprised. It’s too damned dark to see anything.

The floodlighting of Nelson’s statue would provide a point of focus in the nightly gloom and enable it to dominate the square as it does during the hours of daylight. It would also make for a great nighttime photograph.

I suppose the argument against such a proposal these days would be that such expense cannot be justified. For all of Britain’s current economic plight, it didn’t strike me as a country scratching around for its next loaf of bread. The wealth is still there, it is just a question of tapping into it for the common good.

If any Londoners read this post, may I suggest that you contact the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and put forward my idea.

Come on, Boris! You know it makes sense.