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Musicians furious after being 'summarily dismissed' by leading London church

A group of London musical ensembles are furious after being let go from a popular London church.  The orchestras and choirs say they were “summarily dismissed” after 30 years of putting on ticketed concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.

Now, in the light of the financial hardships caused by Covid-19 pandemic, the church has announced a new cost-cutting vision for its concerts, which will entail using more in-house musicians and slashing the services of "third-party promoters".

The church said: "In particular, we want to enable St Martin’s to support a large number of professional musicians directly, rather than through third-party promoters, whilst at the same time continuing and growing our support for voluntary music-making and our flourishing music education programmes." 

Dr Andrew Earis, Director of Music, added that St Martin’s "needs to evolve with the times to ensure its long-term artistic and financial sustainability". 

"We want St Martin’s to be at the heart of London’s musical life, and a place musicians and audience members can call home," he explained. "Throughout the pandemic we have endeavoured to support the musicians who make up St Martin’s in-house ensembles by continuing our choral music in online church services and other remote recordings." 

Many of those whose services are no longer required have expressed their anger at the decision. 

Peter Dyson of the Belmont Ensemble of London, which has provided over 800 concerts at the church since 1991, told the Observer that the decision has come as his musicians, who rely on freelance opportunities, are "on our knees".

"We have given our heart and soul to St Martin’s for 30 years. We’ve been squeezed and squeezed over the past few years, and now they are just cutting us out," he said. 

The Belmont Ensemble of London said the axing was an “act of callous and unchristian behaviour”.

Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin's, said the decision was about the church "not just hosting the harmonies of others, but finding its own voice". 

The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the income of many of the UK's landmark churches, with Westminster Abbey recording a loss of £12m and the Church of England’s 42 cathedrals experiencing a projected drop of more than £28.4m in revenue this year.

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