19 July, 2007

Anonymous 4 concert

The vocal quartet Anonymous 4 performed last night at the Eastern Music Festival here in Greensboro and it was an unqualified delight. The only fault I could find with the entire performance was that the house (Guilford College's Dana auditorium) wasn't sold out.

Well, perhaps that's not the only fault. The group is best known for their interpretations of Mediaeval and Renaissance music, but their last two CD's (American Angels & Gloryland) have been performances of early American hymnody and "gospel" songs and it was from this repertoire that last night's concert program was drawn. Concert attendees who bought tickets expecting to hear the music for which the group is best known were perhaps disappointed at the choices (although the source of the program was listed on the EMF website); indeed, I did notice that several people left at the intermission.

No matter. The concert was, as I said, simply delightful. Although they generally perform a cappella, the group was accompanied last night by guitarist Scott Nygaard and mandolinist/violinist Darol Anger (the instrumentalists were also featured in a couple of pieces without the singers, to great effect). With or without their accompanists, for they did occasionally sing unaccompanied, Anonymous 4 were their usual fabulous selves. The blend of these singers simply must be heard to be believed. At times, it's almost possible to imagine that one is listening to a single voice. It's not that their pitch is perfect (indeed, there were a scant couple of off-tune moments), but that they match timbre and color so beautifully.

I wish I could give a blow-by-blow, so entrancing was the sound, but unfortunately there was no printed program or announcement of most of the pieces. However, all of the concert seems to have been drawn from the music presented in their last two CDs. They sang in duets, trios, and the full quartet as well as having a couple of pieces presented by solo voices and although their genesis as an ensemble may have been early music, it is clear that these women can sing just about anything and make it sound good, so great is their talent and control of their instruments. I was especially pleased to hear that they take as much care to present this music in its accustomed idiom (complete with the requisite focussed somewhat nasal timbre as well as the vocal "catches" one hears in folk and gospel singing) as they do when singing the expected ornaments and vocal "tricks" of early music. And they make it sound so easy, so fluid, so natural. A real treat and although I can't say I wouldn't have preferred a program of early music, I'm truly happy to have had the pleasure of hearing them live, regardless of the repertoire.

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