Master Class: Anonymous 4

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10/21/2011 - 4:15pm


Renowned for their unearthly vocal blend and virtuosic ensemble singing, the four women of Anonymous 4 combine musical, literary, and historical scholarship with contemporary performance intuition as they create ingeniously designed programs, interweaving music with poetry and narrative.

In addition to their unmatched medieval repertoire, Anonymous 4 has often reached out into the realm of contemporary music, and has premiered works by Peter Maxwell Davies, John Tavener, Steve Reich, and Richard Einhorn. The group has most recently expanded their repertoire to include traditional music of the British Isles and America.

Anonymous 4 has performed in major venues and festivals throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. The ensemble has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," "CBS Sunday Morning," A&E's "Breakfast With the Arts," and NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” Anonymous 4's award-winning recordings have attained unprecedented popularity, rising to the top of Billboard's classical chart, and selling almost 1.5 million copies worldwide.

RUTH CUNNINGHAM was raised in Millbrook, NY, but has spent most of her adult life in Manhattan. She received a B. Mus. in Performance of Early Music from the New England Conservatory of Music and is certified as a cross-cultural music and healing practitioner. She specializes in improvisational sacred music from varied spiritual traditions in both liturgical and concert settings. Her new solo program Light and Shadow, on which she accompanies herself on medieval harp, Renaissance flute, recorder, and piano, encompasses a mixture of music, including traditional chants from Western and Eastern traditions as well as her own compositions and improvisations. She also teaches classes and workshops on using the voice and music as tools for healing and transformation, Ruth was a member of Anonymous 4 until 1998; she rejoined the group in 2007. She has also performed with The Vox Vocal Ensemble, Early Music New York, Pomerium, and many other ensembles. For more information visit her website:

MARSHA GENENSKY grew up in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, only two miles from the Pacific Ocean. After earning a B.A. in music and folklore from Scripps College, she traveled east to pursue an M.A. in folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to New York and helping to found Anonymous 4. Marsha handles Anonymous 4’s American music research; she acted as music director for the group’s recordings American Angels and Gloryland, and contributed the American tunes for their most recent holiday release, The Cherry Tree. Historical language research is another of her longtime, favorite tasks for the ensemble. Since moving back to California in 2004, she has become a regular at Bay Area shape note sings; she also teaches performance classes on medieval music and on Anglo-American sacred and secular song for Stanford Continuing Studies.

SUSAN HELLAUER is a native of the beautiful Bronx, New York, where she grew up rooting for the Yankees. While earning a B.A. in music as a trumpet player from Queens College (City University of New York), an increasing fascination with medieval and Renaissance vocal music led her to convert to singing, and to pursue advanced degrees in musicology from Queens College and Columbia University. Susan handles Anonymous 4's medieval music research, and is an adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at Queens College, CUNY, where she directs the Collegium Musicum. She has appeared as a vocal soloist with the Harp Consort, Parthenia, and the 2006 U.S. Fés Festival of World Sacred Music. Susan leads Chant Camp workshops throughout the U.S., plays Baroque guitar and clawhammer banjo, and is proud to be a volunteer EMT with the Nyack Community Ambulance Corps.

JACQUELINE HORNER-KWIATEK comes from a little village called Monkstown, in Northern Ireland. After getting a joint honors degree in Music and English from Queens University Belfast, she moved to London and became a professional singer known for her willingness to sing all types of music, from baroque and classical opera and oratorio to the extremes of new music. (Her roles in contemporary opera included an 8-year-old girl, Jackie Kennedy and a sheep.) She then moved to New York, thanks to winning a Green Card in the U.S. visa lottery program. In addition to her recording and touring activities with Anonymous 4, she has a busy career as a soloist, appearing with such distinguished ensembles as the Washington Bach Consort, Carmel Bach Festival and Albany Symphony, singing everything from Bach to Babbitt. Her own recital program, “A Musical Journey,” features an eclectic mix of songs from the three places she has called home – Ireland, England, and the U.S., Jacqueline can also be found teaching voice and ensemble vocal technique in Manhattan and beyond and spending time with her new husband! For more information visit her website:

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