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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Herrick gets nostalgic with a cappella group

By Laura Dripps

For many Grinnell students, the words “a cappella concert” evoke associations of study breaks, falsetto solos and covers of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” In comparison, Anonymous 4’s selection may have been quite the opposite.

Anonymous 4, which played to a full crowd at Herrick Chapel Monday night, is an all-women’s a cappella group that features polyphonic takes on historical music. Throughout the hour-long performance, group members Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatekblended their voices in virtuosic arrangements of music from the 13th and 19th centuries.

Photo by Carl Sessions

Anonymous 4’s performance was arranged into two components called “Secret Voices: Music from Las Huelgas, c. 1300” and “Gloryland: Sacred Music from the American Folk Tradition.”

According to Hellauer’s summary of the music’s history, “Secret Voices” was the group’s arrangement from the Codex Las Huelgas, an anthology of Latin songs from the 1300s developed for nuns at Las Huelgas, Spain. The nuns had a high level of autonomy for the time period, and were thought to sing the polyphonic music despite prohibitions within the order.

Selections from this section included “Virgines egregie”, “Verbum bonum et suave” and “Omnium in te.”

The tempo picked up during the show’s second half as “Gloryland” featured Sacred American Folk Songs. As one might expect, Gospel music played a large role in the set list, which included “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “Angel Band,” and “Shall We Gather at the River”.

Anonymous 4’s performance concluded the Grinnell Public Events series for the 2012-2013 school year. According to Director of Conference Operations and Events Rachel Bly ’93, Anonymous 4’s synthesis of historical music and a cappella made the group attractive to the Public Events Committee.

“As we were planning for this year, we were looking for both an a cappella group, and someone that did early music,” Bly said. “We try to think about what we’ve had in the last few years and balance it out with different needs for different people.”

The audience for this event included a great number of Grinnell community members.

“I was very pleased with the turnout,” Bly said. “I think the community was so excited about this. You know, we may not have gotten quite as many students as we would normally get at a Public Events concert, but I think that the broader community turned out exceptionally well.”

For students in the audience, the event was an opportunity to hear music atypical to a campus setting.

“I’m in Grinnell Singers, and I also really like American folk songs,” said Sarah Farbman ’15, one of the students in attendance. “So it was just really awesome that they sang those… [The music] was technically very beautiful.”

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