St Mary’s Perivale – West London’s Hidden Musical Gem

A thriving concert series serves music lovers of West London and provides a vital London debut venue for emerging pianistic talent through regular concerts, livestreams and an impressive video archive.

Tucked down a narrow lane in Ealing, west London, is St Mary’s Perivale, a tiny redundant medieval church. Just 7 miles from Marble Arch, St Mary’s Perivale is a classical music centre with a national reputation and growing international outreach. Concerts at the church are run by the indefatigable Hugh Mather, a retired doctor with a passion for the piano and classical music in general.

With a capacity of just 70, the venue reaches a much wider audience via its livestream concerts which are broadcast using state-of-the art video facilities (9 high-definition cameras, including one which gives a bird’s eye view of the piano keyboard, and 6 high-quality microphones), a good piano, perfect acoustics, and a dedicated fibre optic link to the internet. The result is outstanding livestreams and videos, enabling a far larger online audience to enjoy concerts from St Mary’s. In 2022, Hugh Mather and the team at St Mary’s were awarded ‘Lockdown Star’ by the Critics’ Circle for their activities during the pandemic in providing significant support to musicians who had little or no performing work otherwise.

Hugh Mather says:

Over the past four years we have taken a lead in livestreaming classical concerts, and pride ourselves of now being the foremost UK video broadcasting venue for instrumental and chamber music. During the pandemic, we initially broadcast daily recordings from our archive, and then over 150 ‘live’ concerts with no audience in the church. Since being allowed to admit an audience in September 2021, we have streamed another 150, making a total of over 300 broadcasts since June 2020 – more than any other venue.

We are passionate about the future of livestream classical concerts, which came to prominence in the pandemic in June 2020, when they were the only means of providing performing opportunities and income for musicians. At the time they were presumed to be a temporary pandemic phenomenon, but they have now become established as an important new way of enjoying concerts. There is a huge swathe of the population who cannot travel to attend concerts, and the convenience of being able to enjoy a concert in the comfort of one’s home, particularly via a smart TV, for little or no expense, is obviously attractive. While the livestream is not a complete substitute for the ‘real thing’, it is a different and valid option for many concert-goers. It is admittedly difficult to obtain emotional involvement in a concert when sitting alone at home, but this can be partially resolved by participating in ‘live-chats’, sharing opinions with other viewers, leading to the formation of on-line communities enjoying concerts together. The frisson of a ‘live’ event is important, providing an authentic ‘feel’ compared with watching old performances on YouTube.

St Mary’s Perivale has now developed a ‘hybrid’ concert model, catering for two separate audiences simultaneously: a small cohort of c50 local music-lovers in the church, and perhaps ten times as many viewers watching the broadcast on YouTube or Vimeo, either concurrently (about 50) or in the following few days (about 250 to 500 viewers, and sometimes more). The audience in the church provides the ambience and applause, and their donations usually cover the musicians’ fees. For the musicians, especially those who are at the start of their professional careers, the concerts, livestreams and videos offer important exposure from the viewing of their performances around the world – so far in over 50 countries. All concerts remain freely available to view for 3 weeks after a concert, and most are retained permanently.

View St Mary’s video archive here

The concert series presents 120 concerts per year or 3 a week in ‘term time’ and boasts an impressive roster of performers, including Pascal Nemirovski, Viv McLean, Emanuil Ivanov, Thomas Kelly (2021 Leeds competition finalist), Coco Tomita (strings category winner, BBC Young Musician 2020), Siqian Li, Evelyne Berezovsky, Tyler Hay (winner of the 2022 International Dudley Piano Competition), Peter Donohoe, Yuki Negishi, and many more, and in March presents a New Faces weekend festival to showcase up-and-coming young artists. The whole organization is run by unpaid volunteers, and receives no public subsidies or sponsorship

Full details of the spring/summer programme of concerts here