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Sarah McQuaid to perform The St Buryan Sessions in Retford

A singer-songwriter is on the road with her sixth solo album — which was recorded entirely in a church during lockdown.

Cornwall-based singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid is to perform songs from her album The St Buryan Sessions at St Saviour’s Community Centre, Retford, on May 18.

Music has been a life-long affair for Sarah. Born in Spain to a Spanish father and American mother, Sarah grew up in Chicago, touring the US and Canada as a member of The Chicago Children’s Choir.

Sarah McQuaid. Photo by Phil Nicholls
Sarah McQuaid. Photo by Phil Nicholls

In the mid-1990s she made her way to Ireland, where her authorship of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book led to invitations to write regular music columns and reviews for Hot Press magazine and Dublin’s Evening Herald.

Following her move in 2007 — with her Irish husband and their two children — to Cornwall, she struck up a friendship with a fellow mum outside the gates of their children’s school. That fellow mum turned out to be Zoë Pollock, writer and performer of 1991 UK Top Five single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day.”

The pair soon found themselves co-writing songs for an album released in 2008 under the band name Mama, lauded by MOJO’s Colin Irwin as “a pleasingly maverick mix” and by The Irish Times as “Janis Joplin’s freewheeling spirit crossed with Joni Mitchell's lyrical density.”

“I owe Zoë a massive debt of gratitude for getting me into songwriting in a serious way,” said Sarah.

“Prior to that I’d thought of myself basically as a folksinger who happened to write an occasional song, but through working with Zoë I not only learned a hell of a lot about the craft of songwriting, but also just the fact of someone of her calibre wanting to co-write with me was what finally gave me the confidence to start focusing on my own original material.

“And of course, if it weren’t for Zoë I’d never have met Martin.”

Martin Stansbury, a longtime collaborator and former bandmate of Zoë’s who produced and engineered the Mama album, then became Sarah’s manager and sound engineer, accompanying her on all her tours worldwide since 2009.

Most recently, Martin produced and engineered Sarah’s sixth solo album, The St Buryan Sessions, recorded live in lockdown in the medieval church of St Buryan, just over a mile from Sarah’s home.

Released in October 2021 on CD and limited-edition double LP, the album made it onto Best of 2021 lists on three continents and features solo performances by Sarah on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and floor tom drum, her lush, distinctive vocals echoing through the soaring space.

The St Buryan Sessions is a journey through a vast spectrum of emotions and musical styles, creation of which began in began in rural west Cornwall in spring 2020 when tour plans were crippled by the pandemic.

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