This is Sarah Hayes – one of the most respected and sparklingly gifted singers and musicians on the UK folk scene. Although she’s better known as a multi-instrumentalist with Glaswegian anthemists Admiral Fallow, there’s much more to know.
Growing up in Northumberland, Sarah was blessed with exposure to the rich musical traditions of the borders. You can hear it in her pure and unaffected voice and the timeless tone she instils in her flute and whistle playing. But her music goes much further than the passing on of old tunes.
With a Masters in Music Performance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Sarah brings a classical intellect and sophistication to her arrangements and original compositions.
In 2014 she received a Celtic Connections New Voices commission (the unique series of concerts that have been the catalyst for acclaimed records by the likes of Patsy Reid, Rachel Newton and Duncan Lyall amongst others.) The 45-minute work Sarah produced has since taken on new life in the studio, and is now her first LP.
Described by The Scotsman as “ambitiously conceived and beautifully realised”, Woven is a continuous piece that explores the relationship between experience and identity. Setting traditional words to new tunes, new tunes to traditional forms and tying them together with recurring composed themes; Woven demonstrates why the music of the people endures and connects.
You wait years for this former BBC Young Folk Award finalist to make an album and, in addition to her solo debut, along comes the self-titled debut by Wildings; a collaboration between Sarah, Orkney pianist Jennifer Austin and Skye fiddle player Fiona MacAskill. Wildings is a rush of songs and tunes, ancient and modern in which Sarah’s characterful talents as a flautist and singer are to the fore.
There’s yet another new band in the shape of Northlands, which reunites her with former musical partner Ian Stephenson (KAN, Baltic Crossing), alongside Sophy Ball (Bottle Bank Band, 422) and internationally recognised concertina master Alistair Anderson, to create music with a distinctly North East flavour.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Sarah is also a member of the Glasgow New Music Expedition – a classical chamber ensemble dedicated to performing music by living composers. She plays in Flutes en Route and Northern Lights Wind Quintet; she contributed to Inge Thomson’s brilliant Da Fishing Hands album; collaborated with Lahore singer Sara Kazmi; performed recent solo support slots for Aidan O’Rourke, Eliza Carthy and Anais Mitchell, and continues to tutor at Tinto Summer School and Folkworks.
Sarah’s contributions to Admiral Fallow’s third album Tiny Rewards saw the band make bold developments in their approach to songwriting. Their 2015 record was hailed as “a glorious rebirth” by influential music blog Drowned In Sound.
Sarah Hayes is a singer, musician and composer of dazzling versatility. And there’s still so much more to know, and hear.