“The Silence Above Us” is the first single from The St Buryan Sessions, filmed and recorded live (with no audience due to COVID-19) last summer in the beautiful church of St Buryan, Cornwall, parts of which date back to the 11th century.
A second single, “Charlie’s Gone Home,” will be released on Friday 19 February, once again with video premieres on YouTube and Facebook on the Saturday and Sunday. The roll-out of singles and videos will continue throughout the year, and Sarah hopes to release the full 15-track, 72-minute album on CD and double LP in late summer.
“I was in Germany, two weeks into a four-week European tour, when the whole Covid thing hit,” Sarah recalls, “and we had to quickly reschedule our ferry tickets, cut the tour short and hightail it home before all the borders closed. “Then my April-May UK and Ireland tour had to be cancelled as well, and suddenly I was at a loose end, with no gigs and no income. A lot of my musician friends were live-streaming concerts from home, but I wasn’t keen on the idea, mainly because of dodgy Internet and the potential for technical disasters. “I’d been thinking for a long time about making a live album – I’ve always believed that there’s an element of magic in a live concert that’s really difficult to replicate in a studio, plus a lot of my songs have evolved and changed since I originally recorded them.
“I also felt like the standard of my own performances had really turned a corner in the last year or so, and I wanted to capture that on video — but with multiple cameras and high production values, not just somebody’s random film on a phone from the back of the room.” Sarah set up a crowdfunding campaign on the FundRazr platform, and by the end of June it had reached over 100 percent of its £5,000 target, enabling her to hire an impressive team consisting of her longtime manager and sound engineer, Martin Stansbury, who produced, recorded and mixed the project; mastering engineer Stuart Bruce; Cornish filmmaker and director Mawgan Lewis of Purple Knif, who worked previously with Sarah on videos for her 2018 album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous; and Eden Sessions veteran camera operator John Crooks.
“We wanted to try and somehow re-create what anyone would hear and see at a typical show,” Martin explains. “Of course, what we wouldn’t have was an audience, so we looked for key factors that would influence Sarah’s performance. We decided to use her local church, a space she’d been singing in as part of the choir ever since she moved to Cornwall. We set her up as if it were a regular gig: no flash studio mics, just the same touring PA and monitors she’d walked onstage to a thousand times, so it would be truly home territory. There was a set list and she was to play her set and we would record it.” There were a few concessions, such as toilet breaks and pauses between songs to move and reset cameras or wait for a lorry or airplane to go by (some passing vehicles made it onto the recording nonetheless, as did the squabbling swallows in the church porch – and at one point somebody’s mobile phone, making it an even more authentic replication of a live concert). Martin also placed ambient microphones around the soaring space to capture its natural acoustic and intensify the listener experience of “being there”. “I’m totally thrilled with the result,” says Sarah. “I feel like we achieved what we set out to do, and I’m so glad that we were able to do it in a place that’s been so special to me on a personal level – plus, the church itself had a huge impact on the overall sound, as well as on the visuals. I’m really grateful to Canon Vanda Perrett and the St Buryan Parish Council, and to the St Buryan Male Voice Choir for letting me use their lovely grand piano, and most of all to the 184 individuals who contributed to the FundRazr campaign, because we couldn’t have done it without them. “What I’m hoping is that I can eventually do a big album launch concert in the church, whenever that becomes possible given the Covid situation, as a benefit for the church restoration fund. But in the meantime we’ve got the video series, and I hope people do tune in for the YouTube and Facebook premiere events – I’ll be on hand in the chat to answer questions and comments, so it’ll be nice to have some company!” “The Silence Above Us (The St Buryan Sessions)” will be available for streaming and download via Spotify, iTunes/Apple Music, Amazon and other services and also as a pay-what-you-want download via https://sarahmcquaid.bandcamp.com