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Anonymous 4 visits Newman Center for a little holiday harmony

Female vocal group Anonymous 4 performs its 25th anniversary Christmas concert Dec. 8 at the Newman Center. Photo courtesy of Alliance Artist Management

From Gregorian chants to the Beach Boys to the pop-influenced groups on NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” there’s always been something about voices singing together in harmony that thrills the human spirit.

“When you see people working together in harmony, whether it’s music or not, that kind of corporate unity of intent I think is extremely stirring to the human soul,” says Susan Hellauer, one quarter of the female vocal group Anonymous 4. “I think it’s symbolic of what can happen when people cooperate — you reach much higher than any number of individuals working on their own.”

For 25 years, Anonymous 4 has been a melodic example of that cooperative spirit in action, whether it’s researching and collaborating on the medieval music with which the group made its name or working with bluegrass stars like Mike Marshal and Darol Anger on its more recent collections of traditional American folk music.

“We love communing with instrumentalists,” Hellauer says. “We just think that’s the cat’s meow.”

On Dec. 8, Anonymous 4 brings the Christmas version of its 25th anniversary tour to the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Like its non-holiday “Anthology 25” show, the concert features songs from the group’s past quarter-century of recordings, though in this case the focus is on Christmas-themed carols, motets and chants from Anonymous 4’s many holiday albums. Among the songs on the program are the 14th-century Irish chant “An English Ladymass,” the 13th-century English conductus “The Lily and the Lamb” and the 13th-century chanson “la bele marie.”

“We have a lot of Christmas CDs and we have a lot of Virgin Mary CDs,” Hellauer says. “We’ve had people come up to us and say, ‘Do you worship the Virgin Mary?’ And we say, ‘We think she’s great, but the real thing is that she got the best music.’ People in the Middle Ages worshipped her so strongly that there’s a huge amount of music and poetry in her honor.”

The Newman Center show also will feature a new piece — a preview of an upcoming evening-length work — by David Lang of Bang on a Can fame. The full work is set to premiere in 2012, a year that also will see Anonymous 4 play two shows with California-based indie rock band the Mountain Goats. It’s all part, Hellauer says, of the group’s efforts to keep moving forward even after 25 years.

“When you have something like this that’s ongoing and you receive some recognition, some people would say, ‘Oh yay, we’re famous,’ but our reaction is ‘Oh my goodness, now what do we do? What’s next?’” she says. “We have to do something that’s still true to us but looks in another direction. Somebody keeps asking us about the Andrews Sisters. I don’t know.”

Anonymous 4 performs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in DU’s Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. A free “Behind the Curtain” lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $33–$49; visit for more information.


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