Over the River & Through the Woods, a 2 CD set featuring the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, and Garrison Keillor, is perfect for those who prefer the music segments of A Prairie Home Companion.

If you are a fan of hymns, gospel and traditional music there is a lot of joy to the ears in this 2004 VocalEssence records release. If you are wondering why this particular release is on a comedy site it is because I still absolutely love the later VocalEssence release Hymn to Potatoes and just wanted to hear more from this ensemble.

Personally, hymns and gospel are not my cup of tea but Over the River & Through the Woods is beautiful music. It is obvious while listening to this 2 CD set that VocalEssence and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet are not only great singers but that they sing with a joy that is contagious to the live audience and the listener. This is really what makes this recording work for me.

From what I know of this particular kind of music I know that the biggies of the genre are here: Morning Has Broken, sung by the audience, Rivers of Babylon (which I am only familiar with because of the Boney M version), Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and How Great Thou Art.

For fans of A Prairie Home Companion there is a News From Lake Wobegon story included here. My only reservation about this 2 CD set is Garrison Keillor sings a bit too often. When you have vocal ensembles as good as Vocal Essence and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet you should let them sing, especially if your own voice is not professional quality. This recording is, however, a tie-in to a Prairie Home Companion show so it was his show.

Over The River & Through The Woods
Vocal Essence, Garrison Keillor, Hopeful Gospel Quartet
2 CDs
Vocal Essence Records

CD 1:

1 Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
2 Goodbye to My Uncles – Garrison Keillor
3 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
We Gather Together – VocalEssence Chorus
4 Walking in the Spirit – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
5 Welcome – Garrison Keillor
6 For the Beauty of the Earth – Audience
7 I Am a Pilgrim – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
8 Pursuit of Happiness – VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
9 Morning Has Broken – Audience
10 He’s Right on Time – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
11 A Psalm – Garrison Keillor
12 Zion’s Walls – VocalEssence Chorus
13 Rivers of Babylon – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
14 O Herbst – VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
15 Calling My Children Home – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
16 Another Psalm – Garrison Keillor
17 Praise, O Praise the Great Creator – VocalEssence Chorus
18 Couldn’t Keep It to Myself – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
19 An Anthem for Thanksgiving – VocalEssence Chorus
How Happy I Am – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
20 Thanksgiving Recollections – Garrison Keillor
21 Thanks Be to God – VocalEssence Chorus

CD 2:

1 El Hambo – VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
You Don’t Knock – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
Light from the Lighthouse – Hopeful Gospel Quartet
2 A Thanksgiving to God, for His House – VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
3 Monologue – Garrison Keillor
4 Schubert: Psalm 23 – VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
5 How Great Thou Art – Hopeful Gospel Quartet & Chorus
6 Now Thank We All Our God – Audience
7 Irish Heartbeat – Hopeful Gospel Quartet & Chorus


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