A4 News

In This Issue


Final season will include international touring and the third album in the “American Trilogy” for harmonia mundi.

After nearly 30 years of international touring and over 20 recordings on the harmonia mundi label (with over two million albums sold), Anonymous 4 will make the 2015-16 season its last. Singers Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, as well as founding member Johanna Maria Rose, will continue individual pursuits begun when the group transitioned to being a part-time ensemble in 2004, and embark on new endeavors.

When we got together one day in the spring of 1986 to read through some medieval chant and polyphony, we had absolutely no idea that we would be propelled onto a journey spanning over a thousand years of music and many years of our lives. At the end of that day, what we did know was this: we wanted to sing together more, and we wanted to try working as a leaderless group, a consensus organization.

The arguing started almost immediately! When we were about to sing in public for the first time, we had to come up with a name for ourselves. Susan proposed Anonymous 4, a couple of us said NO!!!!, but the name stuck, and the rest is history... Thanks to a lot of hard work, the adventuresome programming of the first concert presenters and radio show hosts who were willing to take us on (among them Louise Basbas/Music Before 1800; John Schaefer/ New Sounds; Bob Davis/Millennium of Music), the readiness of Robina Young from harmonia mundi to take a risk with us... and then a lot more hard work from the members of Anonymous 4, the wonderful folks at harmonia mundi, our longtime friends at Alliance Artist Management and Unfinished Side Productions (with whom we worked at Herbert Barrett Management before AAM was formed), and the many concert, festival, and radio presenters in North America and beyond who have hosted us over the years.

Now, more than 20 recordings, 49 states (we still haven’t made it to South Dakota!), over three dozen other countries, and nearly 30 years later, it’s almost time for us to bring Anonymous 4’s work to a close. Each of us looks forward to new projects and adventures, some already in motion, others as yet to be discovered. Meanwhile, we’re terribly excited about the programs we’ll be recording and touring together during the remainder of our time together.

We feel honored to know that Anonymous 4’s recordings and performances have been enjoyed by so many loyal fans, and that our music has helped certain of our listeners in deeply meaningful ways. We’re also thrilled that our work has inspired the formation of other new ensembles, both amateur and professional; we’re eager to watch as your paths unfold.

Read more about it, including quotes from some of our longtime friends and collaborators, at the Alliance Artist Management website.

Hear more about it in an NPR interview with member Marsha Genensky.

With love,
                                                                                                                          – Anonymous 4

Anonymous 4 to complete an 'American trilogy' for harmonia mundi with '1865'

Anonymous 4’s last American recording for harmonia mundi -- and our final brand new touring program – will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War.

1865 focuses on the personal experience of men, women, and children from the North and from the South, toward the end of the Civil War and in its immediate aftermath -- as told in songs originally written for the stage and for the parlor, and in songs and instrumental tunes from the hills and back roads of America.   

Many of the songs in 1865 were published between 1861 and 1865; others first appeared in print earlier, but were sung constantly during the war years, perhaps in an effort to bring to mind the familiar and the good. Yet other songs and instrumental tunes are not datable; by the year 1865, they had already been passed down from generation to generation without the aid of the
Bruceprinted page.

Joining Anonymous 4 for this project is renowned old-time fiddler, master banjo and guitar player, and heavenly vocalist, Bruce Molsky.

Anonymous 4 and Bruce have put our own stamp on the songs in 1865: sounds include 5-part harmonies on the Stephen Foster gem Hard Times, Come Again No More; Home, Sweet Home and Listen to the Mocking Bird accompanied by the minstrel banjo; an homage to the Carter Family on The Faded Coat of Blue; the high lonesome sound on folk songs like Bright Sunny South, Bruce’s inimitable fiddle and banjo playing on instrumental tunes Rebel Raid and Polly Put the Kettle On, and the four-part a cappella singing of Anonymous 4 on the hymn Abide with Me and the memorial song for Abraham Lincoln, The President’s Grave.

Watch for concerts in your area -- and the CD release of 1865 -- in Spring 2015. For more information about Bruce Molsky, please visit www.brucemolsky.com.

NEW RELEASE: David Lang's 'love fail' featuring Anonymous 4

When we approached Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang about writing for Anonymous 4, we came equipped with a few medieval ideas. It was Susan's dog-eared copy of the Lais of Marie de France (translated by Joan Ferrante and Robert Hanning) that lit a spark, and the result was love fail.
love fail cover

The composer surprised us by assigning us to play a variety of percussion instruments and a conch shell in this work, used sparingly but very effectively in some of the movements.

We recorded love fail for the Cantaloupe label, and we'll let them tell you more about it:

Composed by David Lang, love fail is a meditation on the timelessness of love that weaves together details from the story of Tristan and Isolde with more modern sources. The recording also spotlights the singular and magical sound of the vocal quartet Anonymous 4, whose longstanding commitment to medieval music and historical scholarship has been acclaimed worldwide buy ativan online.

The music and libretto pull together narratives of love from such sources as Lydia Davis, Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, Béroul, Thomas of Britain and Richard Wagner.

Reviewing the BAM performance for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote: “It was Mr. Lang’s music, and the ethereal, pure-toned singing of Anonymous 4, that claimed me in the first section of the piece, which begins with the line ‘he was a blessed man.’”

In his liner notes, David Lang poses the question: “It’s ‘the greatest love story ever!’ But why? Of course, there is the excitement, drama, love, lust, shame, death, dragons. I think the real reason is because the love of Tristan and Isolde begins by accident -- they drink a love potion. They didn’t mean to drink it, and they didn’t mean to fall in love. They drink and --BAM!--it starts. It’s almost a laboratory experiment into what love might be like without any of the complications of how real love begins or works -- without the excitement, embarrassment, frustration, guilt or competition present in the courtships of ordinary people."

Visit our discography page for more details, the tracklist and where to buy.

'The Drop That Contained the Sea' - new album from 2-time Grammy®-winning composer Christopher Tin

Anonymous 4 is proud to be featured on one of the tracks (Seirenes - “Sirens”) of this beDrop coverautiful
and deeply expressive new cycle of songs from the wonderful Christopher Tin.

In the composer's words:

The Drop That Contained the Sea is a collection of commissioned works, reimagined and arranged for chorus and orchestra. Each of the 10 pieces is sung in a different language, exploring a different vocal tradition. Each piece also deals with water in a different form, arranged in the order that water flows through the world: melting snow, mountain streams, rivers, the ocean, and so forth. And like my last album Calling All Dawns, the end of the album flows back into the beginning, reflecting the endless nature of the water cycle.
Visit our discography page for more information, tracklist and purchase links.

New Release! Marie et Marion debuts in the Billboard Top 20

Anonymous 4's new cd, Marie et Marion: Motets and Chansons from 13th-Century France (hmu 807524) has jumped right into the Billboard Top 20, entering at No. 14.
The 13th-century French motet, in 2, 3 or 4 voices, built upon a pre-existing tenor, was the musical and notational avant-garde vehicle of its time, showcasing the growing capabilities of rhythmic notation, as it rapidly developed in complexity and flexibility throughout the century.

Marie et Marion includes Latin and French motets devoted to Mary, and French motets of earthly love for Marion, Marot, Marotele, and their amorous sisters. We also sing trouvère and popular love songs so often quoted in these motets.

We'll be on tour with Marie et Marion during the 2014-2015 concert season. Check our concert listings page for a venue near you.

Find the liner notes, tracklist, reviews and purchase links at our discography page.

Anonymous 4 Sheet Music -New publisher for pdfs on demand

After the recent demise of www.a-cappella.com, we've been engaged by www.sheetmusicplus.com to publish our editions for instant pdf download. We've sent them the materials for "The Cherry Tree" and we're told that they will go on sale soon, -- fall of 2012. All of the editions previously sold on a-cappella.com will appear shortly after, along with many more.

We're looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship sheetmusicplus, who already carry Anonymous 4's octavo editions from Hal Leonard and earthsongs.

Secret Voices: Chant & Polyphony from The Las Huelgas Codex, c. 1300

Secret Voices coverAnonymous 4's newest program is a return to the heart of their favorite century, and to a repertoire that proved to one and all that medieval women could, and did, sing the most complex polyphony in the Gothic era.

This varied repertoire of 13th-century polyphony and sacred Latin song was collected for a convent of noble and aristocratic women, who were clearly used to having their own way. In spite of a rule forbidding the singing of polyphony by the women of their order, these sophisticated ladies sang the most beautiful, advanced and demanding music from all over Europe in the 13th century.

There are elegant French motets here, like the Benedicamus domino setting Claustrum pudicicie/Virgo viget/FLOS FILIUS, the original text of which describes pastoral love in the springtime; and the hybrid 4-voice conductus-motet O Maria virgo/O Maria maris stella/[IN VERITATE]. There are virtuoso conductus, like Ave maris stella and Mater patris et filia, with unpredictable rhythms and lively hockets. A playful Benedicamus domino à 3 is written in rondellus fashion -- like a catch or round -- typical of 13th-century British polyphony. There are also heartfelt laments, like the monophonic song O monialis conscio, a planctus written on the death of a beloved member of the sisterhood; and elegant duos with intertwining lines, like the sequences Verbum bonum et suave and In virgulto gracie.

We also get a glimpse into the musical dedication of the convent in a unique "solfeggio" exercise, Fa Fa Mi / Ut Re Mi, for the sister's music lessons, where they practiced singing their hexachords under the watchful ear of the music mistress.

The repertoire of the Codex Las Huelgas manuscript provides the proof that Anonymous 4, far from singing "men's music," are following in the footsteps of their much-older sisters who had no difficulty (except from their male monastic superiors) in finding and performing the most virtuosic, avant-garde polyphonic music of their time. It's time now for Anonymous 4 to bring them to life again.

Visit the Secret Voices discography page to hear track samples, read the program notes and reviews, and purchase on Amazon.com

We'll be touring with the Secret Voices cd program, and with a version featuring master instrumentalists Shira Kammen and Peter Maund. The music from Secret Voices is also included in our program Sisters in Spirit. Check our concert listings to find a performance near you.

Calling All Dawns - 2010 GRAMMY WINNER!

This past summer, the members of Anonymous 4 were very excited to be asked to participate in an ambitious recording project, Calling All Dawns. It consists of twelve songs in twelve different languages, all dealing with the themes of life, death and rebirth. Song cycle composer Christopher Tin is best known for his award-winning music for the video game Civilization IV, the title song of which, Baba Yetu, is featured on the CD.

Anonymous 4 recorded a beautiful Irish lament, Caoineadh for Christopher, with our own Irish girl Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek singing the solo, and we are joined by many distinguished artists, including Frederica Von Stade and the Soweto Gospel Choir, performing Christopher's other songs.

To hear sound clips, get more information, and to order the CD, please visit Christopher's website Christopher Tin
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The Cherry Tree

Anonymous 4's newest program, The Cherry Tree, is named for the miracle ballad of Joseph and Mary, the earliest text of which survives from a Coventry Play. of c. 1400 The Cherry Tree story persisted in many forms, making its way into medieval British carols of the mid-15th century, and into British and American traditional ballads.

In The Cherry Tree, we present medieval and traditional versions of the story, like Mervele noght iosep and As I lay up on a nyght, along with other much-loved medieval carols, like Nowell synge we, Make we joye, Synge we to this mery cumpane, and Hail Mary. We also perform the monophonic 15th-century ballad carols Newell: Tydings trew, and Lullay my child: This ender nithgt, along with the well-known lullaby carol of the Nuns of Chester, Qui creavit celum. Along with these, we also sing traditional American Christmas songs with British roots -- A Virgin Unspotted, The Shepherd's Star, Star in the East and William Billings' joyous 4-part fuging tune Bethlehem.

We premiered The Cherry Tree in December 2008 and look forward to touring with it during the 2009 holiday season (see concert listings). We're recording it for a Fall 2010 release on harmonia mundi usa.

American Angels Octavo Editions

ANONYMOUS 4 MUSIC is very pleased to announce that a-cappella.com has partnered with Hal Leonard, Inc. to publish octavo collections of the music from our chart-topping cd American Angels (hmu 907326). We've had numerous requests for sheet music from American Angels, and now we're happy to say that it is available.

You can see and purchase these editions at the a-cappella.com website.

Octavo editions of selected medieval pieces from Legends of St. Nicholas, Miracles of Sant'Iago and On Yoolis Night (published by earthsongs) are also available through a-cappella.com.

Gloryland - A4's recording of American Favorites is a long-running hit

When we first began to work on the music for our American Angels recording, we had been singing together for many years; but a couple of us were new to singing Anglo-American spiritual vocal music. It wasn't long before we were all deeply in love with the tunes we had chosen; and soon it became clear that our concert-going and CD-listening audience had fallen in love with them, as well. We simply had to sing more American tunes.

Because of that, and because of the great success of American Angels (80+ weeks on the Billboard Classical Top 25 and counting . . . ) we  returned to the studio in October 2005 for another recording of American music.

Gloryland is the diary of our second pilgrimage to the roots of Anglo-American vocal music. The journey has led us to more of the most beautiful religious ballads, folk songs, folk hymns, and gospel songs ever to be found. Each sung poem contains a world of meaning in itself: together they tell a story of love and loss, hope and redemption.

Our versions of the religious ballads and folk songs on this program follow the performances of traditional singers from the Ozark and the Appalachian mountains. We sing shape note tunes in the spare three-part harmonizations in which they first appear in the nineteenth-century tunebooks. Similarly, we have chosen to perform two gospel songs as they were originally set by their composers. The other hymns and gospel songs on Gloryland were arranged by members of Anonymous 4.

For this recording, we collaborated with two very wonderful musicians: Darol Anger  (fiddle, guitar, mandocello) and Mike Marshall  (mandolin, mandocello, guitar). Darol and Mike are super-instrumentalists who slip seamlessly over the borders of bluegrass, newgrass, classical and jazz.

Click here for track list, sound clips and purchase info

American Angels is a #1 smash hit

It was a couple of years ago that we thought we'd explore some of the great musical heritage of our own country, and the idea of American Angels began to take shape. It ended up being one of our all-time favorite projects, and it sounds like a lot of people agree with us.

American Angels spent almost a year on the Billboard Classical Top Fifteen list since its release in March '04, peaking at #1.

Online giant Amazon.com lists American Angels among its "Top 100 Overall Customers' Favorites" (which includes all categories, including pop and rock), and in the "Top 10 Customer Favorites in Opera & Vocal" for 2004.

The reviews have been glowing (we blush to say) and, more important, they come from a wide range of reviewers -- classical, of course, but also folk, country and pop outlets.

Several of these reviews appear on our American Angels discography page, along with a tracklist, notes and soundclips.

Jacqui has a Web Site

Jacqui now has a presence on the Web.  Check out her beautiful web site  for concert info and more.

News From Ruth

Ruth has just released two new solo cds: Light and Shadow: Chants, Prayers and Improvisations and Harpmodes: Journey for Voice and Harp. Both are available for purchase at her website www.ruthcunningham.com/recordings or at cdbaby.com

Ruth and collaborator Ana Hernandez have created a new CD, "HARC Inside Chants." The CD includes settings of short sacred chants (close to the style of Indian kirtan) from the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Jewish traditions. In many of the pieces traditional and newly composed chants serve as ground for improvised counterpoint. Accompanied by piano, medieval harp, tongue drum, flute, and guitar, "HARC: Inside Chants" is a meditative experience crafted to move the heart to its innate state of openness, compassion and peace. This cd is available at cd baby and can also be downloaded from itunes.

Ruth's CD with  harpist Diana Stork,  Sacred Light, is an album of healing music. Sacred Light is a collection of original compositions of musical prayers and visionary improvisations. Visit the At Peace Music site to read more about Sacred Light and listen to sound clips or visit Amazon.com to purchase a copy.

Voices of Light Now Available on Video & DVD

Anonymous 4 has been involved in some intriguing projects and collaborations, but there is really nothing like Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, an oratorio written to accompany the 1928 classic silent film, "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (dir. Carl Dreyer). The combination of image, text and music is powerful, and we've never known it to leave an audience anything other than deeply moved.

 Einhorn's music has been available on CD (featuring A4) from Sony since 1997, but for the complete experience, you'd have to catch a live performance. Now, at last, the film and Voices of Light are available together. The DVD version even contains additional material not available on the CD or video.  Click here for ordering info. 


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Discography: Marie et Marion love fail The Drop That Contained the Sea Secret Voices The Cherry Tree Four Centuries of Chant
Gloryland Noel The Origin of Fire American Angels Wolcum Yule Darkness into Light
la bele marie The Second Circle 1000: A Mass for the End of Time Legends of St. Nicholas A Lammas Ladymass 11,000 Virgins
Christmas Music from Medieval Hungary Miracles of Sant'Iago The Lily & The Lamb Love's Illusion On Yoolis Night An English Ladymass
Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light A Portrait of Anonymous 4
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