A native Londoner living in Washington, D.C., Biraj has captivated opera lovers on both sides of the pond. He is a professional countertenor that uses his vocal, visual, and theatrical talents to embody opera’s most magical roles. His extensive repertoire spans Baroque opera to new music and his incredible versatility encompasses character roles throughout the gender spectrum. Recent engagements include The Open Gates Project – C3: Countertenors, Continuo, and a Consort of Viols in NYC as part of the Gotham Early Music Scene; Fidele in Diary of a Madman with Seattle’s LowBrow Opera Collective; Merlin in the staged world premiere of The Loathly Lady at the Vienna Summer Music Festival; Siglo de Oro’s tour to Regensburg at the Tage Alter Musik; and his acting debut as William in As You Like It with Shakespeare in the Woods Vermont. Performance highlights include Kenny Fuller in the world premiere of Keepers of the Light at the Nahant Music Festival, the title role in Handel’s The Choice of Hercules with Collegium Musicum Riga in Latvia, 3rd Israelite in Handel’s Esther with Music of the Baroque, the world premiere of Sasquatch: The Opera at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Mago in Handel’s Rinaldo for Opera Mission, and the Eunuch in Dina Pruzhansky’s jazz opera Shulamit in NYC.
Other credits include the title role in Cavalli’s Xerse with Ensemble OrQuesta in London, the inaugural project of the Yale Choral Artists under William Christie in 2012, Oberon with the Aspen Music Festival (2011), Polinesso in Ariodante for the Hub Opera Ensemble (2010), Tolomeo with Bel Cantanti Opera (2009), and the title role in the US premiere of Handel’s Silla with the Bay Area Opera Institute (2007). Upcoming projects include Ottone in The Coronation of Poppea with Capitol Opera Richmond, John Blow’s Venus and Adonis with Fireside Theatre in Cambridge, England in April and Dixit Dominus with Cincinnati’s The Union/ Breath Collective Ensemble in May.
Biraj was an Alto Lay Clerk with the fulltime professional choir at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for four years and was also a fulltime staff Alto with the professional choir at the Washington National Cathedral, from 2016-21. He holds degrees from the University of Manchester, Trinity College of Music, and the Manhattan School of Music. He was recently accepted into the 2022 Opera Mentorship program with Pegasus Opera in London and was also a featured artist in the February 25th edition of Faces of Early Music America.
Canadian soprano Sheila Dietrich is a versatile and in-demand young performer whose style and vocal technique shine in both concert and operatic roles. Ms. Dietrich has appeared as a concert soloist with ensembles across Canada including Les Violons du Roy, the Calgary Philharmonic, The Menno Singers, Nota Bene Baroque Players, The Toronto Classical Singers, The Elora Festival Singers and The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, The Guelph Chamber Choir, and The Bach Elgar Choir. Operatic roles include Rose in Sullivan’s Ruddigore, Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Pitti-Sing in Sullivan’s The Mikado, Belinda in Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, Venus in Gagliano’s La Dafne, Helena in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Abigail Williams in Ward’s The Crucible and La Petite Chaperon Rouge in Aubert’s La Foret Bleue.
A Kitchener-Waterloo native, Ms. Dietrich received her Bachelor of Music Performance and Opera Diploma from Wilfrid Laurier University where she studied with Victor Martens. She has recently studied with Laura Pudwell. In 2015 Ms. Dietrich made her Carnegie Hall debut as a featured soloist in an evening devoted to the music of Purcell under the direction of Richard Egarr. She was also a finalist in the 2015 New York Oratorio Society Solo Competition and was awarded the Johannes Somary Prize.
Sheila is a member of Capella Intima, an Ontario based ensemble, which specializes in performing vocal chamber and operatic music of the 17th century in exciting concerts of rarely heard gems. In 2019 the ensemble released their second CD, Scarlatti’s opera Gli Equivoci nel Sembiante. Sheila is also a graphic designer. She obtained her degree in Digital Communication and Media/Multimedia from Conestoga College and has worked for various companies in Canada. Sheila and her husband Joel recently relocated to Staunton.
Hailed for his “big bronze voice” and commanding stage presence, baritone Adrian Smith has garnered acclaim for performances across the country. Mr. Smith’s recent performances include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in a return to the Western Piedmont Symphony in Hickory, NC, along with the roles of Ethan and Owens in the North Carolina premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain, based on the epic civil war novel of the same name. Previous seasons’ performances include Alidoro in La Cenerentola and Zuniga in Carmen, both with El Paso Opera, Lycos in Hercules vs. Vampires with North Carolina Opera. As a regular guest with the Asheville Lyric Opera, he has performed as Doctor Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore, Papageno in The Magic Flute, and Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Mr. Smith was twice a member of the Apprentice Artist program at the Santa Fe Opera, performing roles such as Larkens in La fanciulla del West, Friar Jean in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and the Major Domo in Strauss’ Capriccio. In past seasons, Smith performed Colline in La bohème with Opera North, and Angelotti in a concert performance of Tosca with the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra amidst a wealth of début performances including King Arthur in a performance of Camelot at Glimmerglass Opera, Dr. Grenvil in Atlanta Opera’s La traviata, and The Dodo in the U.S. premiére of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Additional credits include appearances as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, The Old Doctor in Vanessa, Frère Laurent in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, as Geronimo in Domenico Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto, as Marquis de la Force in Dialogues des carmélites, and in the title role of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.
On concert stages, Mr. Smith’s engagements include Brahms’ Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Frère Laurent in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, and Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C Minor. Other performances include Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Haydn’s Paukenmesse, Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, and Händel’s Messiah and Dettingen Te Deum. A passionate interpreter of the music of J.S. Bach, he has been heard in Bach’s Magnificat, Mass in B Minor, St. John Passion, and Christmas Oratorio, as well as several cantatas, including BWV 82 Ich habe genug. A native of Hickory, NC, Mr. Smith holds degrees from Lenoir-Rhyne University and Boston University.
Hailed as “a strikingly gifted tenor, with a deeply moving, unblemished voice” (sfmusicjournal.com), Brian Thorsett is excelling in opera, oratorio and recital across the world. Since taking to the operatic stage, he has been seen and heard in over 100 diverse operatic roles, ranging from Monteverdi to Britten, back to Rameau and ahead again to works composed specifically for his talents. As a concert singer Brian fosters a stylistically diversified repertoire of over 250 works, which has taken him to concert halls across the US and Europe. Future engagements include Evangelist and soloist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Mass in B minor, Mass in G minor and several cantatas, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, Britten’s War Requiem and Cantata Misericordium, the Requiems of Mozart and Verdi, Haydn’s Creation, Bruckner’s Te Deum, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, a rare performance of Blitzstein’s Airborne Symphony and the world premiere of Stacey Garrop’s Terra Nostra.
Closely associated with expanding the vocal-chamber genre, he has been involved in premieres and commissions of Ian Venables, Peter Josheff, David Conte, Shinji Eshima, Scott Gendel, Gordon Getty, Michel Bosc, Noah Luna, Laurence Lowe, Brian Holmes, Eric Choate, Eric Davis, Michael Scherperel, Robert Conrad and Nicholas Carlozzi. His voice has been featured in film and commercials, being the artist for Soundiron studio’s Voice of Rapture: The Tenor. He also makes many concert appearances with SF Opera & Ballet Principal horn Kevin Rivard. Their interpretations of Britten’s Serenade and Cancticle III have been called “impressive, captivating, transporting” (repeatperformances.org), “lifted to greatness” (sfcv.org), “arresting, fervent and eerie” (nffo.org), “so striking it managed to efface the original recording…a great rendition, sad and poetic” (sfciviccenter.blogspot.org). The duo will be seen in future concerts premiering Bourne to Shelley (Eshima), The Jolly Hunter (Holmes), Perceval (Bosc) and unearthing forgotten works for this combination of instruments. Other projects include working with Theatre Comique, which specializes in historically informed performances of early Broadway music. Brian’s solo album, released in spring 2016, featured works of Frank Tours, Idabelle Firestone, Guy d’Hardelot and their contemporaries arranged for salon orchestra.
He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, American Bach Soloists' Academy, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme at Aldeburgh, England and spent two summers at the Music Academy of the West. Brian is currently Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech and previously served on faculty at Santa Clara University and University of California at Berkeley. His website is www.brianthorsett.com
The Reverend Dr. Paul Weber is Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Director of Choral Activities at Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, North Carolina. From 1999-2016 he served as Director of the Lenoir-Rhyne University A Cappella Choir, which has toured annually throughout the United States and made numerous trips abroad. From 1996-2016 Weber was the architect and coordinator of the university’s Sacred Music Program, whose students are active as church musicians and pastors in congregations across the country. One of his former students, Adrian Smith, appears as bass soloist on this program.
Weber’s hymns, anthems, and liturgical settings are sung across the church. In June 2017 he conducted the premier of an expansive original hymn arrangement at Carnegie Hall with a festival choir of two hundred singers. In September 2017 he conducted the premier of a work celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation at the North Carolina Synod’s Reformation Commemoration in Charlotte, NC. He is a contributing composer to hymnals of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. His hymn collection, So Great a Cloud of Witnesses, will be published by Augsburg Fortress this year. His anthems are published by MorningStar Music Publishers, Concordia Publishing House, and Augsburg Fortress Publishers. In 2003 Weber received the Raabe Prize for Excellence in Sacred Composition from the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians for a career of outstanding contributions to the profession. His composition catalog and recordings of works are found at pauldweber.com
Weber received his doctorate in choral conducting from The University of Iowa, and master’s degrees in composition from Yale University and Washington University, St. Louis. His composition teachers have included Krzysztof Penderecki, Jacob Druckman, Bruce MacCombie, and Ralph Schultz. He has studied conducting and repertoire with Tamara Brooks, Richard Bloesch, Jon Bailey, and Joseph Flummerfelt. Ordained in 1979, Weber served two Lutheran parishes in western Pennsylvania before being called to teach at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He remains on the clergy roster of the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and currently serves as a supply pastor in Episcopal and Lutheran parishes. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival and continues to fill church and university commissions of new works.