How to watch the London Symphony Orchestra for free this Sunday

LSO open air classics

LSO open air classics - Credit: Archant

Symphony in the Square is returning to Trafalgar Square this week and is a sure bet for classic lovers and amateurs alike, says Michael White.

It’s fashionable these days to be snotty about London’s concert halls; and if you ask the average orchestral player, he’ll tell you that none of them have an acceptable acoustic – which is why we need a new one.

But where will the London Symphony be playing next week, of their own choice, and (on past experience) having a complete ball in the process? In the middle of Trafalgar Square: the worst imaginable sound-space for a concert but a venue that the LSO plays once a year and evidently loves.

“Ok, it’s noisy”, the orchestra’s Hampstead-based PR man Kenny Morrison told me last week. “The traffic goes past, planes fly overhead, and with 10,000 people coming and going in the audience there are distractions.

“But it’s an amazing atmosphere. Everyone has a great time. And you do actually hear the music because there’s sophisticated sound engineering with good speaker systems. Apart from which, they take care to play fairly loud pieces. Quiet ones wouldn’t work”.

This is the fourth time the LSO has played Trafalgar Square, and in the past the non-quiet repertoire has usually been Russian – which is no surprise since they’ve always been led by the orchestra’s defiantly Russian chief conductor Valery Gergiev.

It will be Gergiev again on Sunday, with a programme that includes selected movements from Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto (the loud ones presumably) with Nicola Benedetti as soloist.

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But one thing above all that you need to know about the event is that it’s FREE. You just turn up, settle down and listen – preferably with a cushion (you can hire one) and umbrella (just in case, although I’m told it’s never rained so far).

For a good spot arrive early: it gets crowded. And for anyone new to classical music, there’s a compere who explains all.

Valery Gergiev conducts the LSO in Trafalgar Square, 6.30pm, Sun 17th May (but be there by 5.30pm to ensure a place). Full details: