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Release: Immediate

(NOTE TO EDITORS: A very limited number of tickets remain for the two Anonymous 4 concerts. We suggest that you contact the box office just before publishing this story, so that you may provide your audience with up-to-date information on ticket availability. At the time of this release, tickets are still available for both performances.)

Anonymous 4 explores legends of St. Nicholas in Dec. 13-14 UI concerts

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The early-music a-cappella vocal ensemble Anonymous 4 will explore "Legends of St. Nicholas" in the music of the 13th and 14th centuries in holiday concerts at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, in Clapp Recital Hall on the University of Iowa campus. The concerts are part of Hancher Auditorium's 1997-98 Holiday Inn Viva Voce Series.

The concert will feature almost all the surviving medieval polyphony about St. Nicholas (whose name means "champion of the people") from 1200-1350 A.D.

According to the earliest St. Nicholas legends, which date from 500 years after his lifetime, he was born around the year 300 in what is now Turkey. His Christian parents left him an orphan with great wealth, which he promptly gave away to the poor.

He was selected bishop of Myra, and the remainder of his life was spent in a series of courageous, altruistic and miraculous acts in defense of his followers, including imprisonment and torture under Emperor Diocletian.

Shrines to St. Nicholas, recognizing him as a protector of the poor, children, the oppressed and navigators, began appearing in Western Europe by the mid-seventh century. The saint also became a familiar figure in religious paintings.

Traditions of St. Nicholas Day Dec. 6 were brought to the New World by the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, which is now New York City. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 New Yorkers of English descent needed a patron saint to counteract the British St. George, so they adopted the Sinter Klaas customs of their Dutch antecedents and created Santa Claus.

The Liturgy of St. Nicholas was created by 9th- and 10th-century clerical musicians in Charlemagne's Frankish Empire, and hundreds of hymns and several musical dramas were also created to the saint's honor. But the amount of medieval polyphony remained small in comparison, so that Anonymous 4 can survey almost the entire corpus in a single concert.

The concert will also feature readings from "The Gilte Legende" (the golden legend), a middle-English translation of a popular Medieval book about the saints that recounts many of the miracles attributed to St. Nicholas.

Anonymous 4 returns to the UI this season in the wake of their sold-out Clapp Recital Hall concert last spring.

When their first three CDs shot to the top of Billboard magazine's classical music charts, Chamber Music Magazine described Anonymous 4 as "the hottest vocal quartet since the Beatles," and the Chicago Tribune critic proclaimed, "There is no more beautiful music on this earth."

In addition to performing in every major city throughout the United States, Anonymous 4 has cultivated their world-wide following with tours of Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Several Anonymous 4 programs have been broadcast nationally on National Public Radio's "Performance Today" program and Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," and the quartet has been featured on TV programs including "CBS Sunday Morning" and Australian TV's "Access All Areas."

Anonymous 4 recordings are approaching a million world-wide sales, a remarkable achievement for a-capella early music. Among the honors received by their recordings are CD Review's "Classical Disc of the Year" and France's Diapason d'Or Award.

Tickets for Anonymous 4 are $27.50 ($22 for UI students and senior citizens, and half price for audience members 17 and younger) from the Hancher box office.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The Holiday Inn-Iowa City is the major corporate sponsor of the Viva Voce Series through the University of Iowa Foundation.