After nearly 30 years of international touring and over 20 recordings on the harmonia mundi label (with over two million albums sold), the peerless vocal ensemble Anonymous 4 will make the 2015-16 season its last. Singers Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek will continue individual pursuits begun when the group transitioned to being a part-time ensemble in 2004, and embark on new endeavors.
Anonymous 4 will continue its active touring schedule during the next two years with tours confirmed in Spain/Portugal, northern Europe, Macao, Brazil, and throughout North America. Plans for the final season in 2015-16 will be announced shortly. The group also has several exciting recordings on the horizon.
In April, Anonymous 4 released Marie et Marion, the ensemble’s 21st album of new material on the harmonia mundi label. The recording, which revisits 13th-century source material that landed Anonymous 4 on Billboard’s Top 200 for 29 weeks in 1994, has met with accolades and was described as “lovingly and radiantly sung” by the New York Times.
On May 27, David Lang’s love fail will be released on Cantaloupe Music. The highly acclaimed concert-length work was commissioned for Anonymous 4, by a consortium that included Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival, The Kennedy Center, UCLA, Wake Forest University, University of Iowa and The International Festival of Arts & Ideas where the work premiered in 2012. The group will perform selections from the work at the Bang on a Can Marathon on June 22.
Fittingly, the ensemble’s final albums will highlight the broad range that has garnered them such a devout audience: medieval motets, a new work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer, and finally, the last chapter of the “American Trilogy” for harmonia mundi. Anonymous 4 had a breakout hit with the album American Angels in 2004, and followed that up with Gloryland in 2006. In June, Anonymous 4 records 1865 - a collection of songs reflective of the period, featuring old-time singer, fiddler, banjo, and guitar player Bruce Molsky, for release in 2015 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s conclusion.
A FEW WORDS FROM ANONYMOUS 4
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.
– Anonymous 4
A FEW MORE WORDS
“What a wild ride Anonymous 4 have taken us on. Twenty five years of deeply researched, inventively programmed and impeccably sung programs of early music – going all the way back to the year 1000; championing new works written for them by admirers like Steve Reich, Richard Einhorn, and the late John Tavener; and then exploring America’s own ‘early music’ in their programs of early folk hymns and revival songs. My association with A4 goes back to a postcard inviting me to a Christmas program in 1989, and they are still, and likely will always be, a part of my seasonal soundtrack at that time of the year.” – JOHN SCHAEFER / WNYC
“I am so honored that I was able to sneak in there towards the end, and get the chance to work with these amazing musicians – to write my piece love fail for them, to tour it with them, and to record it with them. Ruth, Marsha, Susan and Jacqui – on behalf of music lovers around the world, we miss you already!” – DAVID LANG / COMPOSER
“When we started working together in 1994, none of us imagined how far this would go. There were few U.S. based medieval music ensembles at that time, and none performing outside the early music community, which mostly programmed European ensembles. At that time the classical music market was broadening its palate, and artists like Bobby McFerrin and Kronos Quartet were gaining traction. Anonymous 4 filled a niche with their exquisitely crafted programs and sublime vocal performances. The group became an irresistible concert experience for presenters to offer their audiences. We are excited about their finale season which will have a few nice surprises.” – ROB ROBBINS / ALLIANCE ARTIST MANAGEMENT
Four women got together for a music reading session one afternoon in the spring of 1986; they wanted to hear what medieval chant and polyphony would sound like when sung by female voices. Nearly 30 years later, Anonymous 4 has performed for sold-out audiences on major concert series and at festivals throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and has made over 20 recordings for harmonia mundi usa, selling over two million copies.
Anonymous 4’s programs have included music from the year 1000; the ecstatic music and poetry of the 12th-century abbess and mystic, Hildegard of Bingen; 13th- and 14th-century chant and polyphony from England, France, and Spain; medieval and modern carols from the British Isles; American folksongs, shape note tunes, and gospel songs; and works newly written for the group. Their recordings have received France’s prestigious Diapason d’Or, Classic CD’s Disc of the Year, Classic FM’s Early Music Recording of the Year, several Gramophone Editor’s Choice awards, Italy’s Antonio Vivaldi Award, Le Monde de la Musique’s Choc award; the group has also twice been voted one of Billboard’s top classical artists. Anonymous 4 recently returned to the Billboard charts with the release of Marie et Marion.
Composers who have written for Anonymous 4 include David Lang (love fail, a full-evening- length work premiered in June 2012), Richard Einhorn (Voices of Light, an oratorio with silent film; and A Carnival of Miracles, for vocal quartet and two cellos), John Tavener (The Bridegroom, for Anonymous 4 and the Chilingirian String Quartet), Peter Maxwell Davies (A Carnival of Kings), and Steve Reich (Know What is Above You).
Anonymous 4 has recorded and toured with the Chilingirian String Quartet, fabled harpist Andrew Lawrence King; newgrass stars Darol Anger (violin) and Mike Marshall (mandolin, guitar), and has collaborated with John Darnielle’s indie rock band, the Mountain Goats. The group’s newest project, 1865, featuring songs of hope and home from the American Civil War, pairs the ensemble with renowned singer and old-time fiddler, master banjo and guitar player, Bruce Molsky.