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When the congregation of Edinburgh’s Hope Park Chapel of Ease first occupied the new building’s pews in 1823, the idea of music recitals within the body of the kirk – never mind concepts of jazz, folk or rock – would have been quite literally unimaginable.

Yet this year the building, later known as Newington and St Leonard’s Church, celebrates its 40th year as one of Edinburgh’s best-loved music venues. The Queen’s Hall, as architect Robert Brown’s elegant Georgian building is now known, was opened as a concert venue by the Queen on 6 July, 1979. Tomorrow night the venue kicks off a year-long 40th anniversary programme as Scots fiddler and producer John McCusker hosts Southside of the Tracks, a celebration of four decades of traditional music at the hall, with guests including accordionist Phil Cunningham and singers Roddy Woomble, Daoiri Farrell, Heidi Talbot and Rachel Sermanni.

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