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Classical Snack, Opus 2303

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Piano Player and Still Life, Henri Matisse
Piano Player and Still Life, Henri Matisse

WNED Classical’s “Unofficial House Band”

Stratton Rawson often refers to The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields as our “unofficial house band” here at WNED Classical because we play their recordings quite often. They say it is the most recorded orchestra in the world. But what is this Academy? Who is St. Martin? Where are these fields? And who is Sir Neville Marriner? Was he some kind of knight?

Here are the basic facts about WNED Classical’s “unofficial house band.” The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is a chamber orchestra that was founded in 1958 by keyboardist John Churchill and violinist Neville Marriner. It’s based at a church in London called St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields expands nowadays to include brass, wind and percussion instruments as needed for concerts and recordings. The word Academy implies that it’s some kind of school, but it’s not. Academy used in this way refers to a group of people gathered around a common cause – in this case, making music.

The church called St. Martin-in-the-Fields is located at Trafalgar Square in London. It was named for St. Martin of Tours centuries ago. At that time, the church was way outside the city limits and surrounded by farmland. Thus, the designation in-the-Fields.

Marty Wimmer at Saint Martin in the Fields
Marty Wimmer at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields

The late Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016) was a violinist and the Academy’s original Music Director. He is frequently listed as one of the great conductors of our time. He held the position of Music Director until his retirement in 2011. Current Music Director, Joshua Bell, is his successor. (Bell is a virtuoso violinist whom we also hear quite often on WNED Classical. His recording of the Samuel Barber Violin Concerto is breathtaking, but I digress.) Sir Neville Marriner is referred to as Sir because he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979. Then in 1985 he became Knight Bachelor. So yes indeed, he was a knight!

Comic by Charles Rodrigues
Comic by Charles Rodrigues

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields believes in both high quality and high quantity when it comes to recordings. It has produced more than 750 albums in its 65-year history. And that’s why Stratton calls The Academy of St. Martin In The Fields WNED Classical’s ”unofficial house band.”

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Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields

Academy of St Martin in the Fields                                                  
Hallelujah Chorus | Neville Marriner and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Elgar: Enigma Variations 'Nimrod' | Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner