Born in southwestern Wisconsin, Sarah Brailey grew up on a farm overlooking the Mississippi River with horses, goats, geese, and all manner of feline and canine companions. Her mother–an amateur Bach-obsessed pianist and organist turned nurse and her father, a physician with an encyclopedic knowledge of opera and a voice to match his six-and-a-half-foot frame–kept the radio tuned to public radio and encouraged their children’s musical instincts from an early age. Childhood highlights included repeat performances of Mozart’s Queen of the Night under the living room grand piano, winning Best Keyboards in a high school show choir competition, and playing the Elgar cello concerto in a master class for renowned cellist Paul Katz.
Sarah’s impatience with specialization continues to the present. She enjoys a career filled with a plethora of diverse projects including soloing in Handel’s Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, performing with Kanye West and Roomful of Teeth at the Hollywood Bowl, and recording cello and vocal soundscapes for the 2018 Fog x FLO Fujiko Nakaya public art installation in Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system. She has been hailed by The New York Times for her “radiant, liquid tone,” “exquisitely phrased,” and “sweetly dazzling singing” and by Opera UK for “a sound of remarkable purity.” Co-founder of Just Bach, a monthly concert series in Madison, Wisconsin where she is co-host of Musica Antiqua on 89.9 FM and the Artistic Director of the Handel Aria Competition.
This season, Sarah can be seen singing John Zorn at the Museum Śląskie in Katowice, Poland; a world premiere by Jane Sheldon at the Resonant Bodies Festival; and a program of music for soprano and cello ensemble in Madison, Wisconsin that includes the Bachianas Brasilerias No. 5 by Villa-Lobos and Arvo Pärt’s L‘abbé Agathon. She will join Roomful of Teeth throughout the season for Bryce Dessner’s Triptych and will return to the Brooklyn Art Song Society for a program of songs by Jean Sibelius. She will sing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Bach Society of Minnesota and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. In March, she returns to the Bach Society of Minnesota for Bach’s profound solo cantata Ich habe genug, and selections from Handel’s final oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth. She is looking forward to recording David Lang’s love fail with the Lorelei Ensemble, the Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil with the Grammy-nominated Clarion Choir, and a song cycle for female vocal quartet about the history of women’s voting rights entitled A Woman Knows: 8 Songs on the Progress of Women by Heather Gilligan.
Recent memorable moments include performing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with The Colorado Symphony; Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Handel’s Silete venti, and Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Handel and Haydn Society; discovering a love of Webern through performing Op. 13, 14, and 25 with Trinity Wall Street; making childhood Sarah very happy by performing Zweite Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; singing John Zorn in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre; deepening her obsession with Benjamin Britten in Les Illuminations with NOVUS NY; singing Handel’s Queen of Sheba wearing feathers and leather with the Trinity Baroque Orchestra; and countless performances with Lorelei Ensemble, a group of eight of the most astounding women on the planet.
Among Sarah’s many recording collaborators are tUne-yArDs, John Zorn, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Paola Prestini, and Bang on a Can All-Stars Stars (Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning work Anthracite Fields). In 2019, Sarah sang the role of the Soul on the premiere recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s symphony, The Prison, with The Experiential Orchestra. She is a featured soloist on numerous GRAMMY®-nominated albums including New York Polyphony’s Sing Thee Nowell, Wild Up’s The Pieces that Fall to Earth (Cerrone’s The Branch Will Not Break), and The Clarion Choir’s recording of Maximilian Steinberg’s Passion Week. Sarah also appears as a soloist on the premiere recording of Du Yun’s Angel’s Bone, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and as the impish fairy Verveine in the premiere recording of Le Dernier Sorcier by Pauline Garcia Viardot, also featuring mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and bass-baritone Eric Owens in the title role.