Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anonymous 4’s Susan Hellauer Shares Some Secrets

Anonymous 4 (photo by Chris Carroll)

In the first part of a chat between Anonymous 4’s Susan Hellauer and Ariama editor Craig Zeichner, Hellauer talked about the group’s new album, Secret Voices. Hellauer then shared a look at some of Anonymous 4’s future projects and what the New York Yankees need for the 2012 season.

Ariama: Here you are now 25 years in with albums that have appeared on the Billboard charts. Do you ever imagine it would be this way?

SH: Oh God no! But you know what the great thing is? We were just a group of people who got together to do just what we wanted. We got together because we had some sort of passionate goal and you know that’s very lucky.

Ariama: So what’s next?

SH: We are working on a couple of programs to record, but rather then create a new program for our 25th anniversary we got this idea to do a program called Anthology25 that has one piece from each of our recordings. Putting it together was my “how I spent my summer vacation” project. We’ll be premiering it in late November. It will have some things that are not on recordings like a piece by Richard Einhorn and a preview of the David Lang piece that he’s writing for us,also some John Tavener. It’s really a broad spectrum of all of our recordings. We are also working on a new medieval program and Marsha has an idea in her head for a new American program. Then we’ll see what happens with the David Lang piece, I hope it gets recorded but I don’t have to tell you about the recording industry. But Harmonia Mundi, God bless their hearts, make a beautiful thing, a beautiful artifact.

Ariama: I remember a talk we had in 1998 when the Yankees had that crazy 114 win season and I suggested Anonymous 4 sing the national anthem at the World Series.

SH: Yes! I’ve been talking about it ever since. We listened and obeyed, I made an arrangement of it and next time the four of us get together I’m going to pull it out and we are going to go to Yankee Stadium with it because they have some really cockamamie people singing there. Some good people, but not all the time. It’s a good thing to do for our 25th anniversary.

Ariama: Maybe while you are at it you can get some clutch hitting for the Yankees?

SH: Or some consistent starting pitching.

Ariama: I realized that this is the fourth time I’ve interviewed you. It kind of makes me the David Frost to your Richard Nixon.

SH: I didn’t realize that, but I don’t have much I’m trying to hide like Nixon.

Four Anonymous 4 albums you need to know

Over the course of their 25 year career, Anonymous 4 has recorded sublime music of the middle ages, contemporary works by Richard Einhorn and John Tavener and some of the best albums of American vocal music ever made. Here are four favorites.

An English Lady mass was the album that put Anonymous 4 on the map. Never before had such exhaustive scholarship been wed to such superb musicianship.

With the possible of exception of the ensemble Sequentia, no group has done more to popularize the music of Hildegard of Bingen. The Origin of Fire is one of the best recordings of the ecstatic music of the medieval abbess.

With the 2004's American Angels, Anonymous 4 stepped away from medieval repertoire and released one of the most beautiful recordings of American folk hymns, gospel and revival songs ever made.

Christmas is coming fast and The Cherry Tree is the perfect album for the holiday season. This eclectic collection of English, Irish and American tunes is filled with surprises and Anonymous 4 sings beautifully. What else is new?

--Craig Zeichner
Editor, Ariama. com

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