Best known to Irish audiences as a onetime writer and folk music columnist for both Hot Press and the Evening Herald, Sarah McQuaid has since moved to England and become a full time musician, with six critically acclaimed albums under her belt including new live album and video series The St Buryan Sessions.
She’ll be touring the island of Ireland from January 25 through February 11, with shows in Wexford, The Naul, Portaferry, Ennis, Naas, Ballina, Athy, Waterville, Listowel, Kenmare and Tramore.
Born in Spain (to a Spanish father and an American mother) and raised in Chicago, Sarah found her way to Ireland in the mid-1990s, where her authorship of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book (still in print and selling worldwide via Hal Leonard) led to an invitation to write a weekly folk music column for the Evening Herald.
Her brief soon expanded to include album and gig reviews, while Hot Press also enlisted her as a reviewer, regular columnist and writer of longer interview/profile pieces on artists from Alison Krauss to Jah Wobble, Stereophonics and Bentley Rhythm Ace amongst others.
In 2007, she switched roles from interviewer to interviewee, launching her first solo tour with a memorable appearance as musical guest on John Kelly’s Friday night arts television programme “The View” on RTÉ One (a video of which can still be watched via Sarah’s YouTube channel).
The same year saw her moving to rural West Cornwall, where she struck up a friendship with a fellow mum outside the gates of her children’s school. That fellow mum turned out to be Zoë Pollock, writer and performer of 1991 UK Top 5 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 Siobhán Long in The Irish Times as “Janis Joplin’s freewheeling spirit crossed with Joni Mitchell’s lyrical density.”
Sarah’s most recent release is The St Buryan Sessions, recorded live in lockdown in the beautiful 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 stunning solo performances by Sarah on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and floor tom drum, her lush, distinctive vocals echoing through the soaring space.
“McQuaid’s voice, a fragile, starkly resonant alto, has always been a thing of folk-trad beauty,” wrote reviewer Kenny Berkowitz in Acoustic Guitar magazine, “but here, with ambient mics placed around the church’s interior, it takes on a new joyfulness and a deeper darkness.” Ink 19’s Bob Pomeroy called it “a starkly minimalist recording of exceptional beauty”, and Folk Radio UK described it as “a wonderful, expressive and intimate live album from a consummate performer.”
“There is an audience,” wrote Adrian Jones in Songlines, “– it’s you, and you’ve kept shtum in the back pew. It’s an intimate and changing 70 minutes, ending with the silence of this hallowed setting. Sneak out quietly. And then listen to it again!”
The entire album was filmed as it was being recorded, and videos of all 15 tracks can be viewed on Sarah’s YouTube channel, together with a 10-minute video introduction to Sarah featuring live and studio performances intercut with interview and behind-the-scenes footage.
Prior to the start of her island of Ireland tour, Sarah will be a panelist at “Your Roots Are Showing: Ireland’s Folk Conference” (https://www.showingroots.com) in Monaghan Town on Wednesday January 25th. Details of her concert dates are as follows:
Thu Jan 26: Wexford Arts Centre
Cornmarket, Wexford Y35 X5HF
Tel +353 (53) 912 3764 — Tickets €15 (€13 concessions) — 8pm (Doors 7:30pm)
Sat Jan 28: Séamus Ennis Arts Centre
Main Street, Naul Village, Co. Dublin K32 AY27
Tel 01 802 0898 — Tickets €15 concert only, €20 workshop only, €30 for both — 8:30pm (Doors 8pm)
This will be Sarah’s third performance in this lovely multi-disciplinary arts and cultural centre in rural County Dublin. In addition to the evening concert, she will also be giving a 90-minute workshop on the DADGAD guitar tuning from 3:30pm to 5pm in the same venue (workshop fee €20, combined concert and workshop ticket €30). See https://sarahmcquaid.com/workshops for workshop details and testimonials from previous participants.
Sun Jan 29: The Portico of Ards
Meetinghouse Street, Portaferry, BT22 1LE
Tel 028 4272 8808 — Tickets £17 (U18 £10) — 3pm (Doors 2:30pm)
Wed Feb 1: Glór (Studio Theatre)
Causeway Link, Ennis, Co. Clare V95 VHP0
Tel: 065 684 3103 — Tickets €15 (€13 concessions) — 8:30pm (Doors 8:15pm)
Sarah will be performing in the 50-capacity studio theatre of this superb purpose-built multi-disciplinary arts centre in the heart of Ennis, which recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its opening.
Thu Feb 2: Skylarks Music Club @ The Moat Theatre
Abbey Road, Naas, Co. Kildare W91 CA43
Tel +353 (45) 883 030 — Tickets €15 — 8pm (Doors 7pm)
Sarah is delighted that her special guest for this concert (presented by the Skylarks Music Club) will be Sive (https://www.sivemusic.com). They met when Sarah gave songwriting and DADGAD guitar workshops at the University of Limerick, where Sive was then teaching. More recently, thanks to an Arts Council Ireland Agility Award, Sive enlisted Sarah to give her further tutoring in DADGAD-tuned guitar via Zoom from her home in Cornwall. Both Sarah and Sive are looking forward to meeting again in person!
Fri Feb 3: Ballina Arts Centre
Barrett Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo F26 NW83
Tel 096 73593 — Tickets €18 (€16 concessions) — 8pm (Doors 7:30pm)
Sun Feb 5: Athy Community Arts Centre
Woodstock Street, Athy, Co. Kildare R14 RH70
Tel 087 057 6713 — Tickets Concert €15, Workshop €25 — 8pm (Doors 7:30pm)
This will be Sarah’s first appearance in this lovely community arts venue housed in Athy Methodist Church and Hall, which continues in use as a church on Sunday mornings but now also serves as a theatre, art gallery and workshop space. If there is sufficient interest, she will also be giving a 1-hour workshop on the DADGAD guitar tuning from 4 to 5pm at the same venue (workshop fee €25). Advance booking is essential as the workshop will not take place unless a minimum of 5 participants are signed up in advance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 087 057 6713 to book a place and see https://sarahmcquaid.com/workshops for workshop details and testimonials from previous participants.
Wed Feb 8: Tech Amergin FET & Arts Centre
Spunkane, Waterville, Co. Kerry V23 A243
Tel +353 (66) 947 8956 — Tickets €15 — 8pm (Doors 7:45pm)
Thu Feb 9: St John’s Theatre & Arts Centre
The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry V31 V223
Tel +353 (68) 22 566 — Tickets €15 — 8pm (Doors 7:30pm)
Fri Feb 10: Carnegie Arts Centre
The Library Building, Shelbourne Street, Kenmare, Co. Kerry V93 PD1W
Tel +353 (64) 664 8701 — Tickets €15 — 8pm (Doors 7:15pm)
Sat Feb 11: Coastguard Cultural Centre
Doneraile Drive, Tramore, Co. Waterford, X91 HP63
Tel +353 (51) 391 656 — Tickets €15 — 8pm (Doors 7:30pm)
See https://sarahmcquaid.com/tour for full up-to-date listings.