The Arts

“The Soul” Has Soul

Sarah Brailey MM’07, DMA’21 wins a Grammy for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.

Sarah Brailey

Brailey sings a world premiere by British suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth, playing the part of “The Soul.” Miranda Loud Photography

Sarah Brailey MM’07, DMA’21 was the soprano soloist on Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison, which earned a Grammy Award this year for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. The work, also featuring bass-baritone Dashon Burton and conducted by James Blachly, was composed by Smyth, a British suffragette who lived from 1858 to 1944 and faced discrimination as a woman throughout her decades-long career. The album — which was the world-premiere recording of Smyth’s composition — was released on Chandos Records in August 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in the United States.

Cover of Dame Ethel Smyth's album, The PrisonBrailey sings the part of “The Soul,” and Burton sings the role of “The Prisoner.” Brailey, based in Madison and born in Wisconsin, has earned recognition for her “radiant, liquid tone” by the New York Times. Among her achievements, she has soloed in Handel’s Messiah, performed with Kanye West and Roomful of Teeth at the Hollywood Bowl, and recorded cello and vocal soundscapes for a 2018 public art installation by Fujiko Nakaya in Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system titled Fog x FLO. She is cofounder of a monthly concert series, cohost of Musica Antiqua on Madison’s WORT 89.9 FM, and artistic director of an annual competition.

At the conclusion of her Grammy acceptance speech, Brailey said, “Thank you most of all to Dame Ethel Smyth for giving us this incredible piece and … just being [an] example of what it is to be strength and perseverance.” The album is available on Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Published in the Summer 2021 issue


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