Saint Sister—the Dublin-based duo of songwriter Morgan MacIntyre and harpist and producer Gemma Doherty—today reveal their new song ‘Manchester Air’, the fifth single from their forthcoming second album ‘Where I Should End’, out June 25, and announce a 13 date tour of the UK and Ireland.
‘Manchester Air’ was written in the weeks leading up to the 2018 referendum on the Eighth Amendment in Ireland, which had effectively acted as a ban on abortions in the Republic. Until its repeal by a historic, landslide majority, the act had forced generations of Irish women to travel to the UK mainland to access abortion services.
Inspired by the Irish pro-choice movement, the song reflects a young couple’s journey to Manchester facing an unexpected pregnancy. With an ethereal, acapella intro, the song builds into a haunting folk melody reflective of these time-worn journeys. MacIntyre explains that the song “harks back to the old Irish ballads of leaving home, the constant tramp of the Irish across the water”.
The duo performed the song for the first time on the weekend of the referendum, on Inis Oírr, the smallest of Galway’s Aran Islands. Reflecting on the historic moment the Act was overturned, MacIntyre recalls “Writing this song felt like a cry for help. The weekend the results came through we celebrated by screaming into the sea, feeling the weight of it all wash off us. We performed the song for the first time that weekend and it no longer felt like a cry for help, but rather a cry for every woman who was betrayed by the state and simultaneously a cry of relief, a nod to the future.”
A live performance video of ‘Manchester Air’ is also released today. Directed by Ellius Grace, the film sees Saint Sister perform an intimate, acapella version of the song by the Dublin waterside. The band have also released the first “Stories Behind The Songs” for Manchester Air, a series where the band narrates their experience writing and recording each song on the album. These were also directed by Grace and shot on 16mm film.