Meet the Artists

Our singers are a well-seasoned and varied group of vocalists, with extensive professional credits as both soloists and choral singers. We have a mix of younger professional singers who have recently graduated from the University of Manitoba as well as long-standing members of the Manitoba vocal musical community. Most members of the Polycoro ensemble are choristers and soloists with multiple well-known Winnipeg-based professional choral ensembles such as Canzona, Camerata Nova and the Winnipeg Singers.


John Wiens, Artistic Director & Conductor

John Wiens is a dynamic and versatile conductor with a wide-ranging repertoire hailed as "A new force in our world." Equally at home in chamber or orchestral settings, he is widely recognized for his eloquent interpretations and persuasive musicality.

Born into a musical family in small – town Manitoba, John aspired to be a musician from an early age. He studied violin and piano, and sang in the All Saints Men and Boys choir in Winnipeg. He holds degrees in Violin, Voice, and Conducting, studying with Robert Ingari, Christopher Jackson, and Andrew Megill.

John's conducting career has ranged from Belgium (University Chorus for L'Université Catholique de Louvain) to Morocco (Ensemble Voca Me) to Montreal (St. Matthias Anglican Church in Westmount, Early music chamber choir Ensemble Bellechose) and more recently John has appeared with Camerata Nova and Polycoro.

Polycoro presented their debut concert Musica Reservata in May 2015, featuring Waters of Rest, a work for thirteen voices by Canadian composer Oleksa Lozowchuk, and the Frank Martin mass for eight voices. This concert led immediately to touring and guest appearance requests at the Winnipeg Symphony's New Music FestivaI and the University of Brandon. Polycoro recently finished their second season with a concert dedicated to the story of immigration called Worlds Apart which featured music by Penderecki, Gorecki, and debuted a new cycle by Norbert Palej.


Vocalists

Sarah Jo Kirsch is a soprano/vocalist currently based in Winnipeg, Canada. She continues to make waves as a soloist with local ensembles – large and small – and maintains a continuing presence at the WSO New Music Festival, Cluster New Music + Integrated Arts Festival, and Groundswell, Winnipeg’s new music concert series. In spring of 2014, Sarah was honoured to be awarded 2nd place in the WMC McLellan Competition and 1st place in the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition.

Outside of Manitoba this season, Sarah embarks on a cross-Canada tour with Winnipeg pianist Maddy Hildebrand this fall, and premieres Michael Matthews’ new song cycle ‘Solo queda el desierto’ with L’Orchestre de Chambre de Montréal and performs Mozart’s Große Messe in c-moll at the American University of Beirut and Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre and Berberian’s Stripsody with Calgary’s Land’s end ensemble in spring. Sarah completed her undergraduate degree in voice at the University of Colorado at Boulder College of Music and earned her Master's at the University of Manitoba Marcel A Desautels Faculty of Music.

Zohreh Gervais studied violin and viola at the Alberta Conservatory before moving to Winnipeg to continue her musical studies at the University of Manitoba. An accomplished soprano as well as a violist, Zohreh earned a bachelor's of music degree under the tutelage of Tracy Dahl and Mel Braun. Zohreh's voice has been described as "sparkling," "gorgeous and crystal-clear," and her passion for baroque and early music have made her a sought-after soloist and collaborator.

Zohreh sings with Canzona as a soloist and chorister, and was a frequent soloist with The Musical Offering. Zohreh is a Suzuki Violin and Early Childhood Educator with the Winnipeg Suzuki Program and the University of Manitoba Preparatory Studies Division. She has released two albums: “Acquiescing,” (2004) an album of her original compositions for voice, piano and strings, and “My First Songs and Rhymes,” (2010) an album of children’s nursery rhymes and lullabies. A versatile musician, Zohreh is also the singer and songwriter of the Winnipeg-based bluegrass band, Hay Fever.

Jane Fingler is a soprano from Winnipeg, Manitoba who recently graduated with a voice degree from the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Music. Choral singing continues to be one of Jane's most favourite things to do in this life, as is evidenced by her enthusiastic participation in several choirs (lately Camerata Nova and Canzona). She will gladly attempt singing any style and feels at home singing very high notes. Jane feels very lucky to be a part of it all!

Soprano Dayna Lamothe is an accomplished soloist and chamber musician. Her clear and easy sound is particularly suited to early music performance; she has performed and recorded with some of Canada’s finest vocal ensembles, including the Studio de musique ancienne de Montreal, the Theatre of Early Music, Ensemble Viva Voce, Voces Boreales, the Montreal Consort, the Ottawa Bach Choir and les Violons du Roy. Over the years, her career has taken her to Germany, Austria, England, France, Italy and Mexico.

Recent highlights include a debut performance of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles, appearances in the roles Amour in Rameau’s Pygmalion and Iris in Handel’s Semele with the Mont-Royal Baroque Collective, a recital with Ensemble Seraphina and a performance of François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres. Her most recent recording with Viva Voce, Scenes from the Gospel, featuring the music of Josquin des Prez, Gombert, Machincourt and Willaert, was released in 2014 under the Naxos label.

Sara Clefstad holds a Bachelor of Music (Voice) from the University of Manitoba and a Bachelor of Education (Music) from Lakehead University. Her vocal versatility and communicative sensibilities make her a highly sought-after collaborator, having been invited to sing in concerts and music festivals across Canada, Russia, Argentina, Latvia, Estonia, and The United States. Sara has performed under the baton of such greats as Martin Neary (Westminster Abbey), Oscar Escalada (Conservatory of La Plata), Andrey Boreyko (Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra), Tadeusz Biernacki (Royal Winnipeg Ballet), Alexander Mickelthwate (Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra), and Sanna Valvanne (Finland's Tapiola).

B. Mus. Vocal Performance (West Chester University of Pennsylvania), M. Mus. Vocal Pedagogy (New England Conservatory), M. Mus. Musicology (New England Conservatory)

As a professional choral singer and soloist, Sarah has appeared in venues across the United States and in Canada, England and Italy. She has sung under the batons of such distinguished conductors as Tamara Brooks, Paolo Carignani, Henry Engbrecht, Janet Galvàn, John Harbison, David Hoose, Stephen Mercurio, Donald Nally, Alice Parker, Daniel Pinkham, Donald Teeters, and Constantina Tsolainou, to name a few. She has appeared in opera and concert settings with Canzona and MusikBarock (Winnipeg), Brandon Chamber Players,Festival dei Due Mondi (Spoleto, Italy), Boston Cecelia, The Cantata Singers and Ensemble (Boston), The Bridge Ensemble (Philadelphia), and The Delaware Singers and Orchestra. Recent solo appearances include the world premiere of Ken Nichols’ The River Merchant’s Wife at the Clear Lake Chamber Music Festival and in Bach’s Magnificat with Canzona and MusikBarock.

Kirsten Schellenberg

Mezzo-soprano Kirsten Schellenberg is considered “one of Manitoba's most consistent singers” and has been described as “a young Maureen Forester” (Wpg. Free Press). She has appeared as a soloist with the WSO and the MCO on many occasions. Kirsten has sung with Canzona, Winnipeg's Baroque Choir, for 25 years and is often featured as a soloist in major works by Handel and Bach. She has also enjoyed guest appearances with The Winnipeg Singers, The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, the Mennonite Festival Chorus and other choral groups in the city.

Kirsten's day job is teaching music to students in kindergarten to grade 4 at École Margaret Underhill in Transcona. She is also in demand as a choral clinician and guest conductor for children's choirs in Manitoba. This season, Kirsten is looking forward to singing the alto solos in Messiah with the WSO in December and she will join the WSO again in March to sing Schubert and Brahms.

Dan Peasgood (counter-tenor) has been singing in and around Winnipeg for the past fourteen years. In that time he has sung with numerous choirs including The Winnipeg Singers, Antiphony, Camerata Nova, The Canadian Chamber Choir, and Canzona. Dan is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Music at the University of Manitoba and is a member of Mel Braun's studio there.

Ross Brownlee, countertenor, began his musical training as a singer at the age of six with Donald Hadfield, in the All Saints' Men and Boys' Choir. After several years in Chicago and Montréal where he studied trombone performance, Ross returned to Winnipeg where he now has a rewarding career teaching music at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate. Upon his return, Andrew Balfour asked him to join Camerata Nova. Since 2007, he has been the leader and driving creative force behind Camerata Nova’s annual fully authentic performances of 16th and 17th century music.

PJ Buchan's biography will be posted shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Scott Reimer grew up in a family in which singing together was second nature. Since moving to Winnipeg from the Gretna area, he has enjoyed a wealth of choral experience, having sung with many of Winnipeg's premier choirs, most notably Canzona, The Winnipeg Singers, and Camerata Nova. He has sung as a soloist with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and has represented Manitoba in the National Youth Choir, as well as Canada in the World Youth Choir. He has also been active as a choral director for many years and currently works as a choral teacher, arranger, composer, and clinician.

Michael Dueck's biography will be posted shortly. Thank you for your patience.

James Magnus Johnston

A versatile soloist and ensemble singer, James works with a range of professional and community ensembles in genres ranging from opera to oratorio and musical theatre. He has sung with ensembles such as the Winnipeg Singers, Camerata Nova, and Antiphony; some stage highlights include Les Misérables (Rainbow Stage), "HEAD" (Shakespeare in the Ruins), and Kismet (Little Opera Company). James is also a graduate of the University of Winnipeg's Theatre program, and he studied and taught voice for many years through the Royal Conservatory of Music. He also has degrees in Rhetoric, Political Studies (BA, University of Winnipeg), and Economics (MPhil, Cambridge Unviersity). During business hours, James is the Director of Advocacy for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. He co-owns Fools & Horses, teaches Political Studies and Economics at Canadian Mennonite University, and serves on a number of corporate and community boards.

Paul Wiens is a mainstay on the stage in Manitoba, whether singing with Manitoba Opera, Canzona or other local choral organizations. Paul’s past roles with Manitoba Opera include Sargent in La Boheme as well as The Old Gypsy in Il Trovatore . He also appeared as a soloist in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Opera on the Rooftop concert in 2013.

Other opera roles performed include the title role in Gianni Schicchi, Dandini in La Cenerentola, Guglielmo in Così Fan Tutte, and Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief. Paul has been involved with Canzona since 2003, both as a soloist and chorister. Most recently, he portrayed the roles of Peter and Pilate in Canzona’s St. Matthew Passion. Other highlights as a chorister include recording multiple Robert Turner selections for the album entitled “Amoroso Canto”, and performing the Bach Motet’s in 2012 with B’achtet, a Manitoba based octet founded by Paul and John Wiens. Paul works as a Commercial Banker with Cambrian Credit Union. When he is not performing or working, he enjoys spending time with his family.

Scott Braun's biography will be posted shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Jereme Wall's biography will be posted shortly. Thank you for your patience.