Say a little prayer

Say a little prayer

Who said the devil has all the best tunes? Church acoustics were designed to lift those voices right up to heaven, so little wonder that in recent years some of the hottest singers and bands having been filling pews around the country.

The Union Chapel in London’s Islington pioneered the trend, with its Victorian Gothic auditorium attracting Amy Winehouse, Adele, Florence and the Machine and others; but there’s a whole congregation of others: Elbow have rocked out Manchester Cathedral, and The XX have played St James’s Church in Dingle, while the capital’s St John on Bethnal Green and St Pancras Old Church provide intimate spaces for emerging singer-songwriters.

In the middle of London’s Soho, however, there’s a magical place that most of the nightlife crowd on the streets outside don’t know about. The Grade I-listed House of St Barnabas dates back to 1864 and is thought to have been the inspiration for Dr Manette’s house in Dickens’ ‘Tale of Two Cities’ (“…a quainter corner where the Doctor lived, was not to be found in London.”). Towards the back of the house, near the garden, is a beautiful chapel, inspired by the French style with stained-glass windows, stone floors and golden mosaics.

The chapel hasn’t held a service for a while, but it’s now hosting a new series of cultural events, which range from acoustic nights MC-ed by DJ Gilles Peterson to music sessions and DJ nights by Jarvis Cocker. There’s also a Modern Classical night, set up in association with PRAH Recordings – a new label from the man behind Moshi Moshi Records – showcasing groundbreaking contemporary classical musicians such as Anna Meredith, and an ongoing series of Classic Album Sundays, celebrating albums such as ‘Tubular Bells’.

‘The 19th-century neo-Gothic architecture of the chapel adds an intimacy and theatricality to every event I hold there,’ says Richard Strange, the multi-talented Soho habituee who hosts regular live chat shows in the chapel, titled ‘A Mighty Big If’.

‘The acoustics even flattered Peter Capaldi’s voice when he and I sang Lou Reed’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ there a few months back as a finale to my chat with the new Doctor Who’.

When it was founded, the House of St Barnabas was home to a charity for destitute women, which has since grown into one of the city’s most pioneering homeless charities. In autumn 2013, however, the house reopened as the first non-profit-making club in London, with a warren of Georgian rooms, brasserie-style restaurant, lounge bar and private garden. With all proceeds funneled back to the House of St Barnabas charity, you can order cocktails to your heart’s content, knowing it’s all for a good cause.

House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek Street, London W1D 4NQ (020 7437 1894; The next Gilles Peterson gig is on 3 December and features Denai Moore and Reginald Omas Mamode IV

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