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Bright Morning Star

[ Roud 18268 ; Ballad Index Shel089 ; Mudcat 89700 ; trad.]

The obituary of Elder Elias A. Stamey (1835-1917) in the “Minutes of the Avery County Baptist Sunday School Convention” on 17 August 1917 said:

All who knew him was favorably impressed with his devoted life to God, and the sweetness of his voice to praise the Lord in song, and in death as the sunlight of Heaven beamed into his soul he sang “Bright morning stars arising, Day is breaking in my soul”

Ruth Crawford Seeger printed Bright Morning Stars Are Rising in her book American Folk Songs for Christmas (Doubleday and Co., 1953). Her daughters Peggy, Barbara and Penny Seeger it in 1957 on the same-titled Scholastic Records album American Folk Songs for Christmas. Charles and Peggy Seeger noted:

Kentucky. The words of this song are typical of the shape-note hymn, especially in the apostrophe of the ancestors (father, mother, and so forth), but the original singer probably delivered his own particular version which throws the ordinary strict-tempo melody into an alternation of 5/4 – 4/4 – 3/4 measures.
— from the Archive of American Folksong in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

The Young Tradition sang the Appalachian spiritual Bright Morning Star live at their farewell concert at Cecil Sharp House. A recording of this performance was included in 1970 on the Leader/Trailer compilation The Folk Trailer and in 1999 on Peter Bellamy's anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. The anthology's booklet says simply “Source: Traditional hymn”, and Heather Wood added, “We learned this in Washington DC during one of our tours.” Also, Martin Carthy is quoted very emphatically: “Bright Morning Star is NOT called Bright Morning Stars. Absolutely NOT. It IS called Bright Morning Star. English folkies have pluralised it.”

Nimrod Workman sang Day Is Breaking in My Soul to Mark Wilson and Ken Irwin at Chattaroy, West Virginia on 3 March 1976. This recording was included in 2007 on the Musical Tradition anthology of folk song of the Appalachians, Meeting's a Pleasure Volumes 3. Mark Wilson noted:

Often called Bright Morning Stars Are Rising, this simple song is rightly regarded as one of Appalachia's most beautiful folk hymns. George Tucker's performances (Rounder 0064, 1976) seem to have introduced the song to the revival and Ralph Stanley recorded the piece subsequently on his classic Cry from the Cross (Rebel SLP 1499, 1971). Nimrod sings the piece with notable elongation.

Martin Simpson played Bright Morning Stars on his 1993 album of instrumental arrangements of American gospel songs, A Closer Walk with Thee. He noted:

From another British a capella group, Swan Arcade. I learned Bright Morning Stars, an optimistic melody with a warm and hopeful lyric: “Bright morning stars are rising… Day is a-breaking in my soul.” This Appalachian hymn is now very widespread in the modern folk music repertoire.

Oysterband sang Bright Morning Star on their 2002 CD Rise Above. A live recording from The Forum, London, on 12 December 2003 was released in 2005 on their DVD The 25th Anniversary Concert.

Steeleye Span sang Bright Morning Star with quite different verses referring to the Nativity (shepherds / wise men / angels) on their 2004 CD Winter.

The Melrose Quartet sang Bright Morning Star in 2013 on their CD Fifty Verses. They noted:

A simple and beautiful Appalachian spiritual, well known all over the place and a pleasure to sing!

Bonny Light Horseman sang Bright Morning Star in 2020 on their eponymous album Bonny Light Horseman.

Lyrics

Peggy, Barbara and Penny Seeger sing Bright Morning Stars Are Rising

Bright morning stars are rising (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Oh, where are our dear fathers? (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Some have gone to heaven shouting (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Some are down in the valley praying (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Bright morning stars are rising (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

The Young Tradition sing Bright Morning Star

Bright morning star a-rising (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Oh, where are our dear fathers? (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Some are down in the valley praying (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Some are gone to heaven shouting (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Bright morning star a-rising (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Nimrod Workman sings Day Is Breaking in My Soul

Oh, where is my dear father?
Day is breaking in my soul

Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising,
Day is breaking in my soul

So, where is my dear father?
Oh, where is my dear father?
Day is breaking in my soul

He's down in the valley praying (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

Oh, where is my dear mother? (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

She's gone to heaven shouting (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

Bright morning stars are rising (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

Oh, where is my dear sister? (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

She's gone with the angels shouting (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

Bright morning stars are rising (×2)
Day is breaking in my soul

Steeleye Span sing Bright Morning Star

Bright morning star a-rising (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

It is shining on the shepherds (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Come see the wise men travelling (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

And hear the Angels singing (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul

Bright morning star a-rising (×3)
Day is a-breaking in my soul