(Harmonia Mundi Catalog # HMU 907400)

Folk songs • Spirituals • Gospel hymns of Hope & Glory

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 See Text of Songs

Track List

I'm on my Journey Home O who will come and go with me
An address for All / Like Noahâ??s Weary Dove
Wayfaring Stranger I am a poor wayfaring stranger
Wayfaring Stranger
Where We'll Never Grow Old
Ecstasy Oh, when shall I see Jesus
The Wagoner's Lad
Mercy–Seat From ev’ry stormy wind that blows
Return Again Saviour, visit Thy plantation
The Lost Girl
Palmetto Shall we gather at the river
Pleading Saviour Gently, Lord, O gently lead us
Merrick Saviour, visit Thy plantation
The Shining Shore
Saint's Delight When I can read my title clear
Just Over in the Gloryland
Oh Come you Fair and Pretty Ladies
Parting Friends / Wayfaring Stranger
Green Pastures
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Reviews of Gloryland

 In these doleful days of the disappearing disc there is infinite heartsease in the latest treasure from Harmonia Mundi, wherein Anonymous 4, that superlative distaff ensemble that first sang its way into our hearts via the abstruse meanderings of ancient polyphonies, lately turns its collective imagination and glorious intonation toward our own indigenous lore. Gloryland is their second disc to recreate  the heritage of American gospel, revival and rural folksong; American Angels (2003) was the first; the new issue adds the artful collaboration of  Darol Anger and Mike Marshall on violins, mandolins and guitar.
       It’s difficult to describe the beauty of these two discs, simply because my eyes fill and I can’t see to type. The purity of these four voices – Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner (relatively new to the group), and Johanna Maria Rose – rendered the lines of the fourteenth-century  polyphonies  astonishingly clear without compromising the harmonies toward a later style. Some of that identity with very old musical textures  carries over here as well; naïve as those old revival singers may have been, their singing reached toward an artistry and there are counterpoints in these old hymnals and other collections  that combine into sonorities that are simply beautiful by any measurement. I defy anyone to make his way through No. 5, the gospel song “Where we’ll never grow old” without picking up the needle, or pushing the button, or whatever it is that people do these days, to play the song once again, and then again.  
     What astounds me no less is the richness in the solo singing: the way Bronx-born Susan, to cite one example of many, sings of “The Wagoner’s Lad” with the folkish accent so firmly in control and, just as firmly, the exact harmonic “bending” of every phrase. It’s a quality I’ve admired in Anonymous 4 from the start, and it’s gratifying to hear them carry it intact from one kind of music, across centuries and a wide ocean, to another.   If all these hifalutin words haven’t made it clear: this is a wondrous, essential, fabulously beautiful disc. If all this talk about the end of the disc has slowed your collecting zeal, wait out this one final spark of life. After all, these songs were meant to restore the faith.
- Alan Rich, LA Weekly - Aug 31-Sept 6, 2006

There's nothing like success, and heaven knows Anonymous 4 has seen its share over the years. One of the early music-specialist group's biggest hits was 2003's American Angels, a surprising foray into sacred music of early America--hymns, shape-note tunes, and gospel songs from the 18th and 19th centuries. As is Anonymous 4's practice, the singers drew their material largely from original sources, this time from collections such as The Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp--a diversion from the medieval manuscripts they've tapped for most of their recordings.

This new release, following a similar repertoire path, is loosely based on a theme of a lost girl, forsaken in love, who "looks to the life beyond in spiritual songs of hope, happiness, and glory". Employing both published settings and the performers' own arrangements, the quartet and its instrumental partners bring new life and vibrant power to beloved old hymns, ballads, and revival songs such as Wayfaring Stranger (both instrumental and vocal versions), Where we'll never grow old, Mercy-seat, and Shall we gather at the river--here sung to the tune Palmetto (the group sings the more familiar version on American Angels).

Although both American Angels and Gloryland were recorded at the same favored venue--Skywalker Sound--this latest disc comes across a bit edgier than the first, the voices more forward and more freely ornamenting lines and bending pitches. As one who knows many of the tunes on this program from camps, revival services, and Bible conferences in my younger days, I can say that there's a certain authenticity in the singing--the inflection, the harmony, the rhythmic flow--that sucessfully manages the fine line between sincerity and parody. The solo voices are always strong, true, and--most importantly--expressive of the texts, and together the ensemble makes a sound at once solid and uplifting, worthy of the music's power and purpose.

The instruments for the most part are a very fine addition--and you couldn't ask for more expert or compelling artists than Darol Anger and Mike Marshall. Their accompaniments--they join one or more singers on more than half of the tracks--provide a tasteful folk/country/roots aspect to the songs that works quite effectively, although I couldn't help but feel that their contribution to the last track, exuberant and stylish as it is, sounded more country/pop than gospel.

Highlights include the lively a cappella opening track, the revival song "I'm on my journey home", with its penetrating open harmonies, begun with the singers' attention-getting sol-fa intonation. Susan Hellauer offers a perfectly plaintive Wagoner's Lad and the quartet delivers a sweetly prayerful Pleading Saviour and a wonderfully swinging rendition of the revival tune Merrick, sung to the words "Saviour, visit Thy plantation".

Listeners who thought Anonymous 4 had retired and disbanded will be delighted with this return engagement--which also involves a "Gloryland Tour", already underway and continuing into May, 2007. And as for these four amazing singers, they'd better be careful; they may find themselves in demand for a whole new career and new incarnation as a gospel, folk-hymn, revival quartet. The "Righteous Sisters" anyone?
--David Vernier - www.classicstoday.com

"'Gloryland' (Harmonia Mundi), another superb example of enduring Americana due out on Sept. 12."

"the decision to invite Anger and Marshall on the new CD was an indisputable stroke of inspiration, as was the choice of having Anger and his Republic of Strings sidekick, acoustic-guitar player Scott Nygaard, at a "Gloryland" preview concert on July 11 at Joe's Pub in Greenwich Village."

"Hellauer and Genensky stepped forward to sing "Like Noah's Weary Dove." The two imparted to this early 19th century folk hymn a gossamer tenderness that was transporting."

"With Horner singing lead at times, Anonymous 4 interpreted the gospel song "Where We'll Never Grow Old" with a quiet, limpid fervor that would put the sentiments in Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" to shame."

"The depth of Anonymous 4's scholarship was evident in 'Palmetto,' a Southern folk hymn. Its lyrics by Robert Lowry are the same as those in the better-known gospel song 'Shall We Gather at the River,' but the melody is different--not by Lowry but by William Houser. The singers delivered this difference with sweeping grace."

"After a two-year hiatus in touring and recording together, Anonymous 4 came back with all the composure and self-assurance of seasoned, proven artists. It was a soulful, soul-lifting performance bearing out a truism: to sing is to pray twice. Trio Mediaeval, a Scandinavian trio of female vocalists founded in 1997 and dubbed heirs apparent to Anonymous 4, will have to wait a while longer before accepting that mantle."

- Earle Hitchner, Irish Echo (July 26, 2006)


Joe's Pub, Lafayette Street, N.Y.; July 11, 2006

Anonymous 4 is back – with a twang. Having left medieval chant and somewhat later polyphony behind and moved, musically, to America with their last CD (“American Angels”), the four women are still exploring. At Joe’s Pub (at The Public Theater), they presented a sneak preview of their next CD, “Gloryland” and for the first time they’re accepting the tonalities of instruments: they were joined by Darol Anger on fiddles and mandolin and Scott Nygaard on guitars. For their move up a few centuries and across the Atlantic, the women’s impeccable tonal purity remains but a decidedly American twang has been added to some of the folksier, Southern-mountain based tunes and revival songs. It’s as accurate and enchanting as everything else they do – their sense of history, the when and where of the music they perform, manages to avoid academic stuffiness: this music communicates.
Some of the songs begin with the simple singing of musical syllables (fa-sol-la-mi) - called “shape-note” singing because they were originally notated in different shapes (fa=triangle, sol=circle, etc) for teaching purposes – and then sung with the correct text. “I’m on my journey home,” begins in shape note; it is sung by all four women (but only in three voices). Most of the harmonies and arrangements are by the women but some are traditional. Some songs are presented as duets or solos; Marsha Gerensky and Susan Hellauer sing “Like Noah’s Weary Dove” with utmost simplicity; the instruments back them up with equal modesty and a ravishing violin solo from Mr Anger. In one selection, his rapid, quiet strumming of the mandolin is a perfect contrast with the long, legato singing of the 4. I could attempt to describe the concert song by song, but you get the point: These women are in a new phase of their careers, putting themselves spiritually and harmonically into a new time, a new place. The concert was an event of great vibrancy; one awaits the CD.

- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com

Medieval Meets Country When Anonymous 4 Visits Joe's Pub


Published: July 13, 2006

Years in the early-music trade prepared Anonymous 4 for its evening of American folk music at Joe's Pub on Tuesday. This vocal quartet of women, with two assisting musicians, went through 14 songs and instrumental interludes: some in harmonies more redolent of the 13th century than of our own, others touching on more recent country-and-western style, still a few more representing the close harmony singing that 19th-century settlers brought from Europe.

Rural America has served as a kind of amber, trapping and preserving species of music long since vanished elsewhere. While Mozart  was fiddling with diminished seventh chords, Wagner turning loose modulations to wander where they would, and Ravel creating ambiguous add-on chords, Americans in the hills of Tennessee were doing just what they had always done. People who study language think they still hear the East End of London in the speech of North Carolinians on the Outer Banks, and Shakespeare in the mountains of Kentucky.

The hollow-sounding harmonies and modal intervals of these American song arrangements may derive more from the open strings on country violins than from any conscious medievalism. In the same way, the straightened, vibrato-less tone that Anonymous 4 produces, along with the touches of portamento and the little two-note downward hitches that serve as accent points, sound ancient and American at the same time.

It is all more metaphor than historical fact. The written-down music that survived the Middle Ages, for example, is bare-bones, and a lot of it we don't know how to read. Singing the music of Hildegard of Bingen and her contemporaries (which Anonymous 4 spends a lot of time doing) is modern supposition, a building of new things from a scattering of old components.

Past and present were indistinguishable on Tuesday night. I hope that these singers (Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner and Johanna Maria Rose) realize how close they are to their own times and how endearingly they resemble those small vocal ensembles that blossomed in 1940's popular music, making them a kind of Andrews Sisters to the early-music set.

It's unlikely that medieval music knew anything like this highly integrated, beautifully tuned and very musical singing quartet. Yet by indirection, you can listen to country people in America singing songs like "I'm on My Journey Home" and "The Lost Girls" or listen to their surrogates at places like Joe's Pub and get closer to the past than any scholar of things ancient ever could.

The elegant musicians on Tuesday, playing a variety of bowed and plucked strings, were Darol Anger and Scott Nygaard.

-- Bernard Holland , The New York Times

"The album's meticulous arrangements are, first of all, lovely, and deeply respectful of the songs. "

And second, drawing on the group's sweeping knowledge of sacred singing, they make intuitive connections between Appalachian hymns and traditions that predated them by a millennium. When the full quartet soars into the choruses 'Just Over In Gloryland' or 'Green Pastures', it  is all but impossible not to be buoyed along"
- Jesse Fox Mayshark, NO DEPRESSION
(September/October 2006)


"...the seraphic-voiced female quartet Anonymous 4 offer Gloryland, the continuation of a folk journey it began in 2004 with stirring meditations comprising American Angels: Songs of Hope, Redemption & Glory. On these two albums, A4's concept of recontextualization reflects the group's approach on its other 15 albums of early music - that is, less to reimagine the well-researched song choices in contemporary terms...than to inhabit the spiritual world from whence the songs sprang and find the place in the human heart and soul where the texts live.

A4 is singular in its ability to evoke the chilling ache of spiritual yearning both vocally (witness the somber, piercing entreaties of 'Pleading Savior') and instrumentally (with the beautiful despair of Darrol Anger's haunting violin solo ascending in 'Wayfaring Stranger').

Longtime A4 producer Robina G. Young spots the rich harmonies dead center, giving this largely a cappella outing an uncommonly lush soundscape, one richer still for Marshall and Anger's contributions, as their various stringed instruments boast formidable expressive presence, essentially making them the group's fifth and sixth voices."
- David McGee, THE ABSOLUTE SOUND (October 2006)

Having left medieval chant and somewhat later polyphony behind and moved, musically, across the Atlantic with their last CD (American Angels), the women of Anonymous 4 are still exploring. For their move up a few centuries, their impeccable tonal purity remains, but a decidedly American twang has been added to some of the folksier, Southern mountain-based tunes and revival songs. It's as accurate and enchanting as everything else they do. Their sense of history, the when and where of the music they perform, manages to avoid academic stuffiness: this music communicates. Hymns, ballads, and revival songs make up Gloryland, and the 4 have added superb instrumentalists--Darol Anger and Mike Marshall on fiddles, mandolins, and guitars--to the mix on about half the selections. Some of the songs are begun in simple solfege* (fa, sol, la, mi, etc.) and then are sung with the actual text. Some are presented as duets or solos, and "I'm on My Journey Home" is sung by all four women; some are simple, others delightfully rich harmonically. Irresistible. --Robert Levine, Amazon.com


Gloryland Program Notes

Folk songs • Spirituals • Gospel hymns of Hope & Glory

With this recording, the members of Anonymous 4 celebrate our long journey together. We are honored to be able to share this latest voyage with our new friends, Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, whose travels together began even longer ago than ours did.

The tunes on Gloryland are filled with imagery of the journey, of birds and flying, of reaching and crossing over the Jordan River. Their narrators equate the soul with Noah’s weary dove, who soars the earth seeking a resting place; they wish for wings, to be a tiny swallow, to fly to the next world on eagles’ wings; or they yearn to gather with loved ones at the river and to find green pastures beyond the banks of that shining shore.   

Most of these songs have themselves been traveling for a very long time, in a wonderful intertwining of oral and written traditions that has flourished for many generations. Which of them were newly composed and which were taken down from someone’s singing or playing and then arranged cannot always be determined, but songs like Ecstasy and Saint’s Delight sound equally at home whether sung in their shape-note settings or played on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin.

The elements of Anglo-American song take part in an endless game of mix and match: dance airs are set to sacred words; worldly and spiritual texts share the same musical notes; and hymns that we associate with certain much-loved tunes can also be sung to other melodies. The tune most commonly known as Wayfaring Stranger occurs several times: it appears first with the religious ballad text, “I am a poor wayfaring stranger,” again in the lyric folk song You Fair and Pretty Ladies, in the haunting folk hymn Parting Friends, and finally in a bluesy instrumental rendition. Meanwhile, gospel song composer Robert Lowry’s familiar text “Shall we gather at the river” (which we sang to Lowry’s famous gospel tune Shall We Gather at the River, on American Angels) has migrated to the Southern hymn tune Palmetto; and John Newton’s poem “Saviour, visit Thy plantation” has attached itself to two different tunes: Return Again and Merrick. To further complicate matters in the most wonderful way, the melody of Return Again is a variant of the American Angels tune Invitation.

The folk song The Lost Girl has been likened to the English piece “Streams of Lovely Nancy,” and You Fair and Pretty Ladies is said to be similar to the Scottish “O Waly Waly.” These melodies may or may not actually have their origins in the British Isles, but like many of the tunes on this recording, they bear the influence of English, Scottish, and Irish traditional song. The folk song The Wagoner’s Lad and the religious ballad Wayfaring Stranger almost certainly appeared first in America. Together these four songs tell of a girl who falls in love but is forsaken by her lover. Intertwined with them are folk hymns and gospel songs about the journey to a better world, the journey home, as well as instrumentals on related tunes.

The tunes for I’m on my Journey Home, Ecstasy, and Saint’s Delight, revival songs identifiable by their rousing choruses, were either newly composed or adapted from oral tradition, and arranged in spare three-part settings by nineteenth-century Southern tunebook compilers, who doubled as itinerant singing school masters. The tunes they composed and arranged are known as shape-note tunes, and the tunebooks they published during the first half of the nineteenth century are referred to as shape-note tunebooks, because they contain a musical notation using four different shapes for noteheads (triangle for fa, circle for sol, rectangle for la, and diamond for mi) intended to help students learn to read music quickly and easily. Although no new four-shape tunebooks appeared after the mid-1850s, certain of the old four-shape tunebooks have never gone out of fashion, and the shape-note singing tradition flourishes to this day.

Other revival songs and strophic folk hymns on Gloryland with origins in the four-shape tunebooks include Like Noah’s Weary Dove, Return Again, Merrick, and Parting Friends. Pleading Saviour did not start out as a shape-note tune, but entered the shape-note tradition later in the nineteenth century, after a new shape-note system had been invented in which each of the seven notes of the scale had its own, unique shape. And the tune Palmetto first appeared in print in a seven-shape tunebook in the 1860s.  

Gospel songs began to become popular in the mid-nineteenth century in the Northeastern cities just as the last new four-shape tunebooks were published in the rural South. However, the song traditions do overlap. The Shining Shore, the earliest of the gospel songs on this recording, dates from the mid-1850s, several years prior to the first publication of the four-shape tune I’m on my Journey Home. Unlike the Southern shape-note tunebook compiler/singing school masters, who had most often received their own musical education from other traveling singing school masters, the earliest gospel song writers had studied European musical style and tradition; their compositions feature much more sentimental texts and a greater inclination toward richer harmonies than are commonly found among early settings of folk hymns, religious ballads, and revival songs. But some of the simpler and more folk-like of the gospel songs, like The Shining Shore, almost immediately found their way into Southern seven-shape tunebooks and hymnbooks, alongside favorite older four-shape tunes.

The other gospel songs on Gloryland include Where We’ll Never Grow Old and Just Over in the Gloryland, both of which date from the early twentieth century, and Green Pastures, which was written more than a century after The Shining Shore, in the early 1960s.

Our versions of the religious ballads and folk songs on this recording follow the performances of traditional singers from the Southern mountains. We sing three shape-note tunes (I’m on my Journey Home, Ecstasy, and Saint’s Delight) in the three-part harmonizations in which they first appear in the nineteenth-century tunebooks. Similarly, we have chosen to sing two gospel songs (The Shining Shore and Where We’ll Never Grow Old) in their original settings. We have newly arranged all the other folk hymns, revival songs, and gospel songs on Gloryland.                – MARSHA GENENSKY

Tracks 1-4, 6-18: All vocal arrangements of public domain music were created by members of Anonymous 4, BMI, and all instrumental arrangements were created by Darol Anger and  Mike Marshall, BMI.


Some of the tunebooks and hymnals we consulted while preparing this recording have been in active use since they were first published many, many years ago. Here are recent printings and editions of some of the more long-lived tunebooks, hymnals, and song collections that are still available:

The Good Old Songs (Elder C.H. Cayce, compiler, seven-shape Primitive Baptist hymnal, first publ. 1913)

Old School Hymnal  (first publ. 1920. 12th ed., 2001)

Primitive Baptist Hymn & Tune Book  (Elder John R. Daily, compiler, seven-shape hymnal, first publ. 1902. re-publishing of 1918 ed.)

The Sacred Harp (B.F. White & E.J. King, compilers, four-shape tunebook, first publ. 1844. Denson Revision, 1991 ed.)

The Southern Harmony  (William Walker, compiler, four-shape tunebook, first publ. 1835. reprint of 1854 ed.)

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