Sharpest Tool in the Box

It was friendships made and conversations held with colleagues, largely in the LSO, that led to a link with John Churchill, master of music at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Churchill was looking to organise a new chamber ensemble to play regularly at the church; while Marriner and friends were looking to escape from the ‘tyranny’ of conductors and explore, in particular, baroque repertoire which did not need a conductor. The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields (the hyphens survived for 30 years!) was born.

Against the historic stone backdrop of Dartington Great Hall: Neville Marriner with violin in left hand makes an effort to conduct from the front desk with his bow.
Marriner – ‘directing’ rather than conducting as such at Dartington, late 1960s

Late nights playing ‘for fun’ in Kensington sometimes led to a late appearance the following morning wherever the LSO was rehearsing; which in turn meant paying a fine. Marriner also turns up in the archives of the LSO commenting on the performance standard of individual current or prospective colleagues. It was his insistence on the very highest level of musical execution that ensured the immediate impact of the Academy from its first long-playing record, issued in 1962. Nearly an hour’s worth of music was achieved in only two sessions, at the end of which each musician received a £5 note from the purse of the label’s owner, Louise Dyer.

A colourful (but un-credited) painting of musicians of the Italian renaissance adorns the sleeve of the Academy’s fourth LP for L’Oiseau-Lyre, with the band ‘directed by Neville Marriner’.
Attractive artwork and the Marriner name featured on ASMF’s fourth LP for L’Oiseau-Lyre