Hard on the heels of a six-week Ireland and UK tour, locally based international singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid is looking forward to three Cornwall shows: Penlee Park Open Air Theatre in Penzance on Friday 17 June, intoBodmin at the Old Library in Bodmin on Saturday 18 June, and The Redruth Drapery on Sunday 19 June.
She’ll be promoting her new album The St Buryan Sessions, which was recorded live in lockdown in St Buryan Church near Penzance and has drawn critical raves and appeared on best-of-2021 lists on three continents.
“It’s been amazing just to be back out on the road performing to real live flesh-and-blood human beings instead of images on a screen,” says Sarah, “but these are seriously tough times for all touring artists, myself included. Travel costs have skyrocketed and audience numbers are way down on what they should be.
“I’d urge people, if they’re thinking of coming to any of my gigs, to please buy tickets in advance, because low ticket sales make venues twitchy and they start talking about cancelling shows.
“I’ve already had three gigs on this tour cancelled due to low ticket sales, which is financially disastrous when you’re already out on the road and have expenses to pay whether you do a gig or not.
“But even with small turnouts, the gigs that have gone ahead have been absolutely fantastic — it’s so, so lovely to get that immediate reaction from a live audience. There’s nothing else in the world like it.”
Born in Spain and raised in Chicago, Sarah lived in Ireland for 13 years before moving to West Penwith in 2007 with her husband (local artist Feargal Shiels, a member of the renowned Newlyn Society of Artists) and two children.
“The kids were 2 and 4 years old when we moved to Cornwall and they’re 17 and 19 now,” she says, “so this is really the only home they remember and I’m so, so glad that they’ve been able to grow up in such a lovely part of the world. I’ve put down some very deep roots here now and I don’t plan on moving again!”
It was through relocating to Cornwall that Sarah met Zoë, writer and performer of 1991 hit single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day,” at the school gates of St Levan School, the tiny primary school that both Zoë’s and Sarah’s children attended.
The pair hit it off and recorded an album of co-written songs under the band name Mama, released in 2009 to critical acclaim: MOJO called it “a pleasingly maverick mix,” the Financial Times described it as “captivating” and the Irish Times said it evoked “Janis Joplin’s freewheeling spirit crossed with Joni Mitchell’s lyrical density.”
Entitled Crow Coyote Buffalo, the Mama album was produced and recorded by Martin Stansbury, also based in Cornwall, who subsequently became Sarah’s manager and touring sound engineer.
Stansbury also produced and recorded Sarah’s sixth solo album, The St Buryan Sessions, which was released on CD and limited-edition double vinyl LP on 15 October 2021.
The album made it onto “Best of 2021” lists published by such far-flung media outlets as 2ser 107.3fm in Sydney, Australia; the “Ear To The Ground” radio show on Nashville’s WXNA FM; the Netherlands’ “Slim Chance” music blog; and the UK’s “Strummers & Dreamers” show on Cambridge 105 and Blues & Roots Radio.
With the assistance of second cameraman John Crooks, Cornish filmmaker Mawgan Lewis filmed the entire album as it was being recorded. His videos of all 15 tracks can be viewed on Sarah’s YouTube channel, together with a 9-minute documentary, “The Making Of The St Buryan Sessions”, featuring interviews and song snippets.
Details of Sarah’s three Cornwall dates are as follows:
Fri Jun 17: Penlee Park Open Air Theatre
Morrab Road, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 4HE
Tel 07816 285367
Tickets £12 advance (£14 door)
7:30pm (Doors 6:30pm)
This will be Sarah’s fourth appearance at this lovely outdoor venue! Home-made vegetable pre-show curry (dairy and gluten free, with naan bread and yoghurt), veggie soup with roll or jacket potato with butter and grated cheese can be pre-ordered when you book your show tickets; in addition, there is a licensed bar plus a full range of hot and soft drinks and snacks. Become a Friend and get exclusive benefits, discounts and priority booking. Gift vouchers also available.
Sat Jun 18: intoBodmin at The Old Library
10 Lower Bore Street, Bodmin, Cornwall PL31 2JX
Tel 01208 811185
Tickets £12/£10/£8 (flexible pricing)
7:30pm (Doors 7pm)
This will be Sarah’s second visit to this lovely little arts centre in the former Passmore Edwards Free Library, one of a number of institutions opened in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year. The building was re-opened as a performance and community space in 2018. Please book in advance where possible, as the performance will not take place if a sufficient number of tickets are not sold in advance. Under intoBodmin’s flexible pricing scheme you can choose to pay £8, £10, £12 or more.
Sun Jun 19: The Redruth Drapery
4 West End, Redruth, Cornwall TR15 2RZ
7:30pm (Doors 6:30pm)
The Redruth Drapery Stores was one of the first department stores of its kind in the South West up until the 1950s. Since then it’s been through many incarnations, and is now an independent events venue for live music, food, wine tasting and more.