Our Story

Music-at-Hill (originally St Anne’s Music Society) celebrated its golden jubilee season in 2019 as one of the longest-running concert series in the City of London, having started life back in April 1969 as an outreach ministry of the Lutheran congregation based at St Anne & Agnes Church in Gresham Street. It remained there for some 44 years, moving in tandem with the Lutherans to the Wren church of St Mary-at-Hill near Monument in 2013.

What began as a simple series of monthly organ recitals by the incumbent musical director Simon Lindley (who later became Leeds City Organist) had by the mid-1980s been built up into a thriving beacon of music-making by the joint vision of the Lutheran Pastor, Revd Ronald Englund and his Cantor, Peter Lea-Cox. Peter was also responsible for founding the City’s renowned Bach Cantata series, which - via the monthly service of Lutheran Bach Vespers curated by the City Bach Collective - is still going strong in its fifth decade.

Following Peter-Lea Cox’s retirement, the Society was successfully run by the next Lutheran Cantor, Lübeck-born Martin Knizia, for around a decade. Towards the end of this period the Lutheran Congregation and the Music Society were obliged to look for a new home (when the lease on St Anne & Agnes expired). Together, they moved their operations to St Mary-at-Hill, but while still co-operating closely they decided to go their own separate ways both constitutionally and financially, so Music-at-Hill now operates as a freestanding concert society, under the artistic direction of Stuart Whatton.

Music-at-Hill is a registered charity, no. 266570, and is entirely run by a small team of volunteers, several of whom have acquired considerable expertise on the broader metropolitan music scene through years of enthusiastic classical concert-going. We pride ourselves on being one of the friendliest concert series in central London, with our volunteer-run refreshments table always offering concert-goers a warm welcome and the chance of a chat both before and after the performance.

These days, the Society still oversees a special Bach Festival every July (a tradition which has been maintained since 1996) but its core activity is its Friday lunchtime concert series. Whilst laying on a wide variety of chamber music, the series has built up a particular reputation for its Baroque and early music programming, aided by the Lutherans’ resident harpsichord and chamber organ to which we used to have access first at St Anne & Agnes and then at St Mary-at-Hill. In 2022, with the aid of a generous bequest from our late supporter Mrs Berthe Wallis, the Society purchased its own harpsichord - a one-manual Goble instrument - which has once again opened up fresh possibilities for our Bach Festival, as well as for Baroque programming at other times of year.

Back in autumn 2019, Music-at-Hill decided with some reluctance (but out of financial necessity) to move its home base once again, leaving the Square Mile for the midtown location of St Giles-in-the-Fields Church near Centre Point. We successfully concluded half a year’s worth of concerts there before the coronavirus pandemic forced a suspension of our operations, but we managed to build up a fresh head of steam again during 2021 and have continued to flourish since then, offering our audiences over forty high quality concerts a year, including a feast of Baroque music during our annual Bach Festival.

A further new leaf was turned last autumn when, after four years at St Giles-in-the-Fields, we moved our operations to Holy Sepulchre Church near Holborn Viaduct. This was originally a temporary arrangement while St Giles was closed for refurbishment work, but we were made so welcome at Holy Sepulchre that we decided to stay there permanently! We are now proud to be the concert society-in-residence at the National Musicians’ Church, and we look forward to developing a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship with our new hosts.

Memorable Society projects in recent years have included a special series of concerts to celebrate Telemann’s 250th birthday, including hosting the British premiere of a Telemann cantata winkled out of the composer’s archives in Magdeburg; the ‘Yes of the Heart’ Festival, in honour of Luther’s famous 95 Theses and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation; and two separate mini-series marking both the centenary of Debussy’s death and the centenary of the Russian Revolution. We have continued to mark major birth and death anniversaries of leading composers, including Beethoven in 2020 (postponed to the tail end of the pandemic), Vaughan Williams in 2022, Byrd in 2023 and Stanford in 2024. Meanwhile, in freshly minted collaborative arrangements with two leading conservatoires, we have begun to host termly harp-related and brass-related concerts curated by the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music respectively.

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