All 4 One: Having the Anonymous 4 playing in a local church is like having Bruce Springsteen playing in your garage.
Photo by Susan Johann
Unearthly delights, cowboys, strangers, and horny heathens
I'M HORNY FOR HILDY--the 12th-century German abbess and mystic who left behind a stunning litany of sacred and secular hymns, and turned me on to the transformative beauty of medieval music. OK, Hildegard von Bingen's been dead for over 800 years, yet her otherworldly chants--recorded faithfully or with a wash of annoying synthesizers--are still hot items among fans of early music.
Which brings me to the Anonymous 4, superstars in the still remote galaxy of medieval musicians. Sure, the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos--who scored a landmark hit with 1994's Chant (Angel/EMI), an uplifting collection of Gregorian numbers sung in Latin--get most of the press. And you can imagine the stir if that glorious choir were to pop up for a local tour. But it's a sin that the upcoming performance by the Anonymous 4--actually classically trained singers Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, and Johanna Maria--at the Redwood Arts Council's chamber music series is scarcely causing a ripple on the local music scene.
Their captivating best-selling debut, An English Ladymass (Harmonia Mundi), sold over 150,000 copies worldwide and spent most of 1993 and 1994 on the classical music charts. Those aren't high numbers by pop music standards, but impressive enough to earn this New Yorkbased foursome a reputation as the King Midas of medieval chants and polyphonic singing. Their follow-up albums--1993's On Yoolis Night, 1994's Love's Illusion, 1994's The Miracles of Sant'iago, and 1995's The Lily and the Lamb--all have charted equally well.
"There is justice in the world after all, for these are wonderful performers: distinctive personalities with individual voices," the New York Times opined, "who by dint of hard work blend with superb balance and unearthly purity."
No one's ever going to say that about Courtney Love.
Anonymous 4's most recent project was to sing the voice of Joan of Arc in Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, conceived to accompany Carl Dreyer's classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Indeed, this is a small choir that is virtually unparalleled in their tonal purity and precision of pitch.
The spiritually uplifting superstars of high church music--who could ask for anything more?
Anonymous 4 performs Friday, April 11, at 8:30 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 35 Liberty St., Petaluma. Tickets are $25, $20, and $15. For details, call 874-1124.
Other upcoming soul food includes the Kinky antics of Ray Davies Friday, April 4, at the Marin Center. Davies plans an unusual evening of storytelling and songs, including a spelling out of his classics and a bit of his twisted humor. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. 8 p.m. Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. Tickets are $18-$25. 415/499-6400. . . . Closer to home, plan on arriving early for the Shawn Colvin gig Tuesday, April 8, at the Luther Burbank Center. Smart songstress Patty Griffin opens the evening, singing from her debut album Living with Ghosts (A&M), an effort that was recorded mainly in a Nashville kitchen. Griffin, who was a waitress with a penchant for poetry until just three years ago, has a heartbreaking delivery and an honesty that is beautiful to hear. Songwriter Freedy Johnston (named 1994's songwriter of the year by Rolling Stone magazine) also fills the bill before Colvin, performing from his This Perfect World album. The whole evening sounds like a small, perfect world. From 7 p.m. Tickets are $22.50. 546-3600. . . . The Mystic Theater in Petaluma hosts the Little Dog Tour Saturday, April 12, featuring the Americana roots rock of producer/guitarist Pete Anderson (the man behind albums for Roy Orbison, k.d. lang, Michelle Shocked, and others), the sounds of The Lonesome Strangers, and guitarist Jeff Finlin. 9 p.m. Tickets are $10. 765-6665. . . . The rock-a-punk-a-billy of the Reverend Horton Heat drenches the Mystic in martini time Saturday, April 19, at 9 p.m. This gig is almost sold out, so hurry on over to get the $15 dollar tix. . . . Also on the verge of being ticketless is watching Les Claypool pound the cricks out of his new drummer when Primus plays a benefit gig at Petaluma's Phoenix Theatre Saturday, April 12. Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit the Carson Warner Memorial Skate Park Fund. 762-3566. . . . . And finally, former Sun Ra sideman Michael Ray brings his funky Cosmic Krewe back to the Powerhouse Brewing Co. Saturday, April 12, for more reeling jazz. 268 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $14. 829-9171.
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From the April 3-9, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent
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