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The Cherry Tree / Anonymous 4

Audio Samples

>Traditional, Irish : Prophetarum presignata, prosa for vocal ensemble
>Traditional, Christmas : Nowell Sing We, carol (English)
>Anonymous, English : Alma redemptoris mater
>Traditional, Christmas : The Shepherd's Star (American)
>Traditional, Christmas : Nowell, Nowell, Tidings True, carol ("Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, this is the salutation")
>Traditional, English : Mervele noght, Josep
>Traditional, Christmas : Synge We to Thys Mery Cumpane, carol (English)
>Anonymous : Qui Creavit Coelum, hymn
>Traditional, Christmas : A Virgin Unspotted (American)
>Traditional, Christmas : Now May We Syngyn, carol (English)
>Traditional, Christmas : This Endere Nyghth, carol
>Anonymous : Star in the East, spiritual
>Anonymous : Veni redemptor gencium, hymn
>Traditional, Christmas : The Cherry Tree Carol
>Anonymous, Irish : Salve mater misericordie, prosa for vocal ensemble
>Traditional, English : Hail Mary Full of Grace (15th Century)
>Billings, William : Bethlehem

Album Summary

>Traditional, Irish : Prophetarum presignata, prosa for vocal ensemble
>Traditional, Christmas : Nowell Sing We, carol (English)
>Anonymous, English : Alma redemptoris mater
>Traditional, Christmas : The Shepherd's Star (American)
>Traditional, Christmas : Nowell, Nowell, Tidings True, carol ("Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, this is the salutation")
>Traditional, English : Mervele noght, Josep
>Traditional, Christmas : Synge We to Thys Mery Cumpane, carol (English)
>Anonymous : Qui Creavit Coelum, hymn
>Traditional, Christmas : A Virgin Unspotted (American)
>Traditional, Christmas : Now May We Syngyn, carol (English)
>Traditional, Christmas : This Endere Nyghth, carol
>Anonymous : Star in the East, spiritual
>Anonymous : Veni redemptor gencium, hymn
>Traditional, Christmas : The Cherry Tree Carol
>Anonymous, Irish : Salve mater misericordie, prosa for vocal ensemble
>Traditional, English : Hail Mary Full of Grace (15th Century)
>Billings, William : Bethlehem
Composers

Notes & Reviews:

"Anonymous 4 fans already will be looking for the first opportunity to buy this new release--it combines the group's signature early chant and polyphony, this time mostly from 14th- and 15th-century English sources, with several selections representing English imports to the New World, including the title Cherry Tree Carol (Kentucky, 1917), The Shepherd's Star (from Southern Harmony, 1835), and William Billings' four-part fuging tune Bethlehem. You can hardly believe the purity and clarity of the voices--and I know I've said this with every new Anonymous 4 disc release--which are recorded so intimately that if there were a flaw anywhere you'd notice. But you don't. No wonder these singers regularly are compared to angels and similarly otherworldly beings. Highlights include any of the polyphonic pieces, but particularly the 15th-century English carols Veni redemptor gencium and Alma redemptoris mater, the latter reminiscent of the well-known carol There is no rose of such virtue (not included on this program). Fans of early American tunes will appreciate the folk hymn entries from the 19th century, rendered by these very accomplished singers in a style appropriate to time and place, but with restrained use of vocal slides and syllabic inflection that makes you want to come back rather than retreat, a performing philosophy similar to the group's tasteful and respectful interpretive style on American Angels and Gloryland. The sound, from an appropriately "otherworldly" venue, Lucasfilm's Skywalker Sound, and from the more earthly Sauder Concert Hall at Goshen College, Indiana, is as extraordinary as the singing, which--and I don't hesitate to say it again--is possessed of superhuman clarity and faultless intonation. Don't argue with this; just buy it." -Classics Today (10/10)

Back in the studio after a four year hiatus, Anonymous 4 returns with 'The Cherry Tree' - an instant holiday music classic featuring medieval English carols and Anglo-American spiritual songs. It is the eighteenth original recording for the renowned vocal ensemble and their first since 2006's 'Gloryland', which debuted at number three on the Billboard classical chart. Anonymous 4 has been a perennial presence on Billboard's Top Classical Albums chart and hit number one with their folk-inspired 'American Angels' in 2004. 'The Cherry Tree' is named after the miracle ballad of Joseph and Mary, the earliest text of which survives from a Coventry Play from around 1400. The 'Cherry Tree' story persisted in many forms, making its way into medieval British carols of the mid-15th century and into British and American traditional ballads. In it, Joseph doubts the divine origin of Mary's pregnancy only to hear Jesus speak from within Mary's womb, causing a cherry tree to bend its branches and offer his mother its fruit.

"Anonymous 4's trademark vocal blend, with its sparing use of vibrato and its careful dynamic gradations within phrases, suits this music beautifully. And three solo 'ballad-carols,' along with the Americanized 'Cherry Tree Carol,' showed that the singers are as powerful and communicative on their own as they are together." -The New York Times

"Despite the scholarship behind the notes, these four American artists render everything with the shimmering beauty, flawless intonation and vibrant projection that have made them a genuine phenomenon on the early music scene." -San Francisco Examiner

"As fans of Anonymous 4's first 18 or so recordings you may remember this legendary group's first attempt at retirement from the studio--2003's phenomenal best-seller American Angels; or, was it 2005's The Origin of Fire, or the American Angels 2006 followup, Gloryland? However, it seems that, like a certain NFL quarterback who keeps returning to do what he knows and loves, to ever more acclaim, this very successful quartet has returned once more--and plans for future releases are in progress. In the music world, retirement can be a very good thing, especially when you've really nothing more to say, or when your skills and technique are failing. But this never was the case with Anonymous 4, and evidence of continued recording projects and concert performances is most welcome: the world absolutely needs music like this--of such purity and grace and beauty, supplanting the seedless hull of popular fashion with a sustainable harvest of spiritual sustenance and sheer musical pleasure. No one will ever deplore Anonymous 4 for its excess!

And although the mere idea of Christmas as a religious holiday celebration is fast disappearing from mainstream consciousness, these carols and songs preserve and continue to enliven a rich and meaningful tradition. And even if you're not a particularly religious person you can revel in these carols' possible origins in the songs of ancient and very secular feasts and festivals. Regardless, music that's been around for hundreds of years and still touches people needs no publicity machine, no slick marketing campaign, no media blitz to artificially certify its value. Like all of Anonymous 4's repertoire, this is music that celebrates its elemental form, and as such is more affecting and memorable than anything concocted by today's formulaic songwriters and highest-tech production studios. (Let's see how many people are performing Lady Gaga in 500 years.)

So, is there a review somewhere in here? Anonymous 4 fans already will be looking for the first opportunity to buy this new release--it combines the group's signature early chant and polyphony, this time mostly from 14th- and 15th-century English sources, with several selections representing English imports to the New World, including the title Cherry Tree Carol (Kentucky, 1917), The Shepherd's Star (from Southern Harmony, 1835), and William Billings' four-part fuging tune Bethlehem.

You can hardly believe the purity and clarity of the voices--and I know I've said this with every new Anonymous 4 disc release--which are recorded so intimately that if there were a flaw anywhere you'd notice. But you don't. No wonder these singers regularly are compared to angels and similarly otherworldly beings.

Highlights include any of the polyphonic pieces, but particularly the 15th-century English carols Veni redemptor gencium and Alma redemptoris mater, the latter reminiscent of the well-known carol There is no rose of such virtue (not included on this program). Fans of early American tunes will appreciate the folk hymn entries from the 19th century, rendered by these very accomplished singers in a style appropriate to time and place, but with restrained use of vocal slides and syllabic inflection that makes you want to come back rather than retreat, a performing philosophy similar to the group's tasteful and respectful interpretive style on American Angels and Gloryland. The sound, from an appropriately "otherworldly" venue, Lucasfilm's Skywalker Sound, and from the more earthly Sauder Concert Hall at Goshen College, Indiana, is as extraordinary as the singing, which--and I don't hesitate to say it again--is possessed of superhuman clarity and faultless intonation. Don't argue with this; just buy it."-classicstoday.com

Anonymous 4 presents The Cherry Tree, an evening of medieval English carols and American Christmas songs. Perhaps the most renowned early music vocal group performing today, the quartet's ethereal voices shine in these renditions of traditional holiday music.

"As fans of Anonymous 4's first 18 or so recordings you may remember this legendary group's first attempt at retirement from the studio--2003's phenomenal best-seller American Angels; or, was it 2005's The Origin of Fire, or the American Angels 2006 followup, Gloryland? However, it seems that, like a certain NFL quarterback who keeps returning to do what he knows and loves, to ever more acclaim, this very successful quartet has returned once more--and plans for future releases are in progress. In the music world, retirement can be a very good thing, especially when you've really nothing more to say, or when your skills and technique are failing. But this never was the case with Anonymous 4, and evidence of continued recording projects and concert performances is most welcome: the world absolutely needs music like this--of such purity and grace and beauty, supplanting the seedless hull of popular fashion with a sustainable harvest of spiritual sustenance and sheer musical pleasure. No one will ever deplore Anonymous 4 for its excess!

And although the mere idea of Christmas as a religious holiday celebration is fast disappearing from mainstream consciousness, these carols and songs preserve and continue to enliven a rich and meaningful tradition. And even if you're not a particularly religious person you can revel in these carols' possible origins in the songs of ancient and very secular feasts and festivals. Regardless, music that's been around for hundreds of years and still touches people needs no publicity machine, no slick marketing campaign, no media blitz to artificially certify its value. Like all of Anonymous 4's repertoire, this is music that celebrates its elemental form, and as such is more affecting and memorable than anything concocted by today's formulaic songwriters and highest-tech production studios. (Let's see how many people are performing Lady Gaga in 500 years.)

So, is there a review somewhere in here? Anonymous 4 fans already will be looking for the first opportunity to buy this new release--it combines the group's signature early chant and polyphony, this time mostly from 14th- and 15th-century English sources, with several selections representing English imports to the New World, including the title Cherry Tree Carol (Kentucky, 1917), The Shepherd's Star (from Southern Harmony, 1835), and William Billings' four-part fuging tune Bethlehem.

You can hardly believe the purity and clarity of the voices--and I know I've said this with every new Anonymous 4 disc release--which are recorded so intimately that if there were a flaw anywhere you'd notice. But you don't. No wonder these singers regularly are compared to angels and similarly otherworldly beings.

Highlights include any of the polyphonic pieces, but particularly the 15th-century English carols Veni redemptor gencium and Alma redemptoris mater, the latter reminiscent of the well-known carol There is no rose of such virtue (not included on this program). Fans of early American tunes will appreciate the folk hymn entries from the 19th century, rendered by these very accomplished singers in a style appropriate to time and place, but with restrained use of vocal slides and syllabic inflection that makes you want to come back rather than retreat, a performing philosophy similar to the group's tasteful and respectful interpretive style on American Angels and Gloryland. The sound, from an appropriately "otherworldly" venue, Lucasfilm's Skywalker Sound, and from the more earthly Sauder Concert Hall at Goshen College, Indiana, is as extraordinary as the singing, which--and I don't hesitate to say it again--is possessed of superhuman clarity and faultless intonation. Don't argue with this; just buy it." - ClassicsToday

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, IN (02/2009); Skywalker Sound (02/2009); Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, IN (11/2009); Skywalker Sound (11/2009).



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Works Details

>Traditional, Irish : Prophetarum presignata, prosa for vocal ensemble
  • Running Time: 1 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Medieval

>Traditional, Christmas : Nowell Sing We, carol (English)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 59 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: circa 1450

>Anonymous, English : Alma redemptoris mater
  • Running Time: 4 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Choral

>Traditional, Christmas : The Shepherd's Star (American)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 21 sec.

>Traditional, Christmas : Nowell, Nowell, Tidings True, carol ("Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, this is the salutation")
  • Running Time: 3 min. 58 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: circa 1485

>Traditional, English : Mervele noght, Josep
  • Running Time: 6 min. 19 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Christmas

>Traditional, Christmas : Synge We to Thys Mery Cumpane, carol (English)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 15 sec.

>Anonymous : Qui Creavit Coelum, hymn
  • Running Time: 4 min. 21 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Choral

>Traditional, Christmas : A Virgin Unspotted (American)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 34 sec.

>Traditional, Christmas : Now May We Syngyn, carol (English)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 45 sec.

>Traditional, Christmas : This Endere Nyghth, carol
  • Running Time: 3 min. 46 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Christmas

>Anonymous : Star in the East, spiritual
  • Running Time: 3 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Anonymous : Veni redemptor gencium, hymn
  • Running Time: 5 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Medieval

>Traditional, Christmas : The Cherry Tree Carol
  • Running Time: 3 min. 10 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: circa 1820

>Anonymous, Irish : Salve mater misericordie, prosa for vocal ensemble
  • Running Time: 1 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Medieval
  • Form: Choral

>Traditional, English : Hail Mary Full of Grace (15th Century)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Christmas

>Billings, William : Bethlehem
  • Running Time: 2 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Classical
  • Form: Christmas