Four women got together for a music reading session one afternoon in the spring of 1986; they wanted to hear what medieval chant and polyphony would sound like when sung by female voices. Twenty-five years later, Anonymous 4 has performed for sold-out audiences on major concert series and at festivals throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and has made 19 recordings for harmonia mundi usa, selling over two million copies.
Anonymous 4's programs have included music from the year 1000; the ecstatic music and poetry of the 12th-century abbess and mystic, Hildegard of Bingen; 13th- and 14th-century chant and polyphony from England, France, and Spain; medieval and modern carols from the British Isles; American folksongs, shape note tunes, and gospel songs; and works newly written for the group. Their recordings have received France's prestigious Diapason d'Or, Classic CD's Disc of the Year, Classic FM's Early Music Recording of the Year, several Gramophone Editor's Choice awards, Italy's Antonio Vivaldi Award, Le Monde de la Musique's Choc award; the group has also twice been voted one of Billboard's top classical artists. Anonymous 4 recently returned to the Billboard charts with the release of Secret Voices (2011), music from the 13th-century, Spanish Codex Las Huelgas.
Composers who have written for Anonymous 4 include David Lang (love fail, a full-evening-length work to be premiered in 2012), Richard Einhorn (Voices of Light, an oratorio with silent film; and A Carnival of Miracles, for vocal quartet and two cellos), John Tavener (The Bridegroom, for Anonymous 4 and the Chilingirian String Quartet), Peter Maxwell Davies (A Carnival of Kings), and Steve Reich (Know What is Above You).
Anonymous 4 has recorded and toured with the Chilingirian String Quartet, fabled harpist Andrew Lawrence King; newgrass stars Darol Anger (violin) and Mike Marshall (mandolin, guitar); and has a new collaboration project with the indie rock band, the Mountain Goats, featuring songs by John Darnielle with vocal arrangements for the quartet by Owen Pallett.