Following the music

Sally Cole
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Fiddler Shannon Quinn, left, appears in a recent handout photo. The Young Company alumnae is newest addition to the Paul McKenna band. The Scottish-based group is coming to the Old Triangle in Charlottetown, March 28-29. From second left are Paul McKenna, Ewan Baird and Sean Gray.

Young Company alumnae Shannon Quinn, who has landed a spot with the Scottish-based Paul McKenna Band, is returning to Charlottetown to perform on March 28-29

It’s a long road from the Charlottetown Festival to Scotland, but Shannon Quinn is happy to follow it.

The Halifax native is the newest member of the award-winning Glasgow group, the Paul McKenna Band.

“My major goal after finishing school was to somehow hook up with a Celtic band and tour, so I am really thrilled to have an opportunity to do that. I love their music, and they are great guys, so it has been a really great experience,” says the former Young Company member and fiddler for the band that is coming to the Old Triangle in Charlottetown on March 28-29 and includes McKenna, vocals, guitar and bouzouki, David McNee, bouzouki, tenor guitar and vocals, Sean Gray, flute, whistles, guitar and vocals, and Ewan Baird, bodhran.

She landed the gig in July, to the delight and surprise of her friends, after graduating from the Humber College music program.

“A mutual friend who sometimes plays with the band in the United States recommended me to them when their old fiddler left. And I harassed them until they said yes,” says Quinn, with a laugh.

Besides playing fiddle, she loves singing backup vocals with the band.

“The show is based around McKenna, the lead singer. Usually when someone has strong vocals there’s less instrumentation, but in this band all the band members play an integral part in each song.

“For example, the music is heavily arranged with interwoven parts featuring the flute and fiddle. Also, the percussionist, Ewan Baird, is world class. He ties everything together,” says Quinn, during a telephone interview.

Combining their love for traditional and folk music as well as original songs and tunes the Paul McKenna band has been playing to audiences throughout the U.K. since 2006.

Recent credits include best up-and-coming artist at the Scots Traditional Music Awards as well as tours throughout North America, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, appearing at major folk festivals.

After their performance on P.E.I., band members are heading to Halifax for a gig at the Carleton.

They’ll return to P.E.I. for East Coast Music Week to be part of the traditional showcase at the Old Triangle on April 4.

“It’s really sweet. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m lucky that I’ve joined forces with these guys because they’re really great,” she says.

Quinn credits her experience as a member of the 2006 Young Company’s production of Les Feux Follets for preparing her for the job.

Having to do daily shows and rigourous vocal and physical warm-ups gave her the strength and stamina that she needed.

“It was like a boot camp. It got me used to the idea of performing every day. It also made me more comfortable on stage. Up until that point I had only performed tranquil Celtic music. So it was a great exposure to the performing arts world,” she says.


Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.

Shannon Quinn fast facts

- She graduated from King’s View Academy in Halifax in 2007 and from Humber College's music program in 2012.

- At 23 years of age, she is a multi-instrumentalist, dancer and composer.

- While performing with her father, Tony, for 14 years, Quinn was featured with many recording artists.

- She became one herself when she recorded The Irwin Lake Sessions in 2008.

- Website: Go to

Organizations: Humber College, Young Company, The Guardian King’s View Academy

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Halifax, Scotland United Kingdom United States North America Denmark Germany Italy P.E.I.

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