Anyone who sang/was forced to sing hymns at school will tell you: There's nothing like the acoustics of an old chapel. In recent years, several of London's sacred halls have begun opening their doors to soulful secular performances. From the lofty Gothic caverns of Union Chapel in Islington to the crumbling interiors of Asylum Chapel in Peckham, here are five music venues that we can all hold in reverence. Book a ticket and make a joyful noise.

Union Chapel

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Over the past 25 years, Union Chapel has gone from facing demolition to being Grade I-listed. Completed in 1877, the chapel today serves as a working church, a support centre for London's homeless and an unforgettable music venue. Beneath the stone domed ceiling of this Gothic masterpiece, sound reverberates in a truly sacred way. While the likes of Edwyn Collins and Elton John have graced its stage, Union Chapel also welcomes lesser-known, alternative artists and regular ethical projects. Events include film screenings scored with the organ, plus free live events most Wednesday mornings. See listings and buy tickets online.

Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN. 020 7226 1686; unionchapel.org.uk

 

St Giles-in-the-Fields

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Known at the Poet’s Church, St Giles-in-the-Fields is located at the end of record lovers’ Denmark Street. Past performers include Bon Iver and Julianna Barwick, plus poetry readings by Patti Smith, who named it one of her favourite churches in England. This echoing Palladian church taps into the artistic energy of surrounding Soho as it provides solace from the often frenetic atmosphere. It's the kind of hushed, ethereal environment perfect for an evening of live music. On the last Wednesday of the month, they host 'A Collection of Folk,' a monthly evening of folk music and tales from Denmark Street and its neighbours. See event listings online.

60 St Giles High St, London WC2H 8LG.
020 7240 2532; stgilesonline.org

 

St John on Bethnal Green

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Standing majestically at the crossroads opposite the tube station, St John on Bethnal Green is at the heart of the Bethnal Green neighbourhood. In recent years Father Alan began opening the church's double doors to music lovers. Featuring both avant-garde and classically influenced artists, the venue is an ideal fit for moody tones. Shuffle along the pews with a beer or cup of wine, but be sure to wrap up warm in winter and get down early so your view won't be obstructed by one of the huge stone pillars. Upcoming shows include Mike McGoldrick, Tropic of Cancer, O’Hooley & Tidow and Steve Gunn. Check listings and buy tickets online

200 Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PA. stjohnonbethnalgreen.org

 

Asylum Chapel

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Despite being called an asylum, the Grade-II-listed Asylum Chapel was not a home for the mentally ill. Instead, the word was used in its older sense, as a sanctuary, and it was in fact an old folks’ home for retired pub landlords. In 2010, after it stood derelict for many years, Maverick Projects opened up the space for art projects, exhibitions, theatre productions and concerts. Between the peeling baby-blue paintwork, the stained-glass windows and the flickering candlelight, the chapel has transformed into a magical music venue. Asylum regularly host nights of music (past acts include Bullet for My Valentine and Professor Green), drama and dance performances. Check listings and book tickets online.

Caroline Gardens Chapel, London SE15 2SQ. 020 3302 5955; maverickprojects.co.uk

 

The Old Church, Stoke Newington

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The Old Church, Stoke Newington is the only surviving Elizabethan church in London. Standing at the edge of Clissold Park behind a walkway of gravestones and beautiful oaks, it has become a community-led music and arts venue. Last year saw Áine O’Dwyer playing an experimental set with bells and the church’s ancient organ. This month expect opera cabaret; a string quartet supporting the Alzheimer’s Society; and several 'Tea + a Gig' events: a monthly morning series of acoustic gigs for parents with babies in tow, presenting a diverse array of musicians from London's world, jazz and folk music scene. Check listings and book tickets online.

Clissold Park & Stoke Newington Church St, London N16 0JR. theoldchurch.org.uk


By Zara Miller

Zara is a freelance writer who loves travelling and all kinds of storytelling. Follow her on Twitter.