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Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Biography
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is an English chamber orchestra, based in London.
John Churchill and Sir Neville Marriner founded the orchestra as The Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields in London as a small, conductorless string group. The original group numbered 11, all male. Their name comes from Trafalgar Square's St Martin-in-the-Fields church, where the orchestra gave its first concert on November 13, 1959. In 1988, the orchestra dropped the hyphens from its full name. Marriner holds the title of Life President.
The initial performances as a string orchestra at St Martin-in-the-Fields' church played a key role in the revival of baroque performances in England. The orchestra has since expanded to include winds. It remains flexible in size, changing its make-up to suit its repertoire, which ranges from the Baroque to contemporary works.
Neville Marriner continued to perform obbligatos and concertino solos with the orchestra until 1969, and led the orchestra on recordings until the autumn of 1970, when he switched to conducting from the podium from directing the orchestra from the leader's desk. On recordings, besides Marriner, Iona Brown and Kenneth Sillito have led the orchestra among others. Since 2000, Murray Perahia has held the title of principal guest conductor of the orchestra, and has made commercial recordings with the orchestra as pianist and conductor.
In May 2011, the orchestra announced the appointment of Joshua Bell as its new music director, the second person to hold the title in the orchestra's history, effective September 2011, with an initial contract of 3 years.
The orchestra's first recording was for the L'Oiseau-Lyre label at Conway Hall on March 25, 1961. The orchestra has since accumulated an extensive discography, and is one of the most recorded chamber orchestras in the world, with over 500 sessions. Other labels the orchestra has recorded for include Argo, Capriccio Records, Chandos Records, Decca Records, EMI, Hänssler Classic, PENTATONE, Philips Records, and Hyperion Records. The orchestra has also recorded under the names "Argo Chamber Orchestra", "London String Players", and "London Strings". The orchestra has played on the film soundtracks of Amadeus (1984), and The English Patient. Their best-selling recording is the Amadeus soundtrack. The Academy also helped record one of the most iconic anthems in sport the UEFA Champions League Anthem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.