Bright Morning Stars

An artful arrangement of one of the great Appalachian folksongs. After an opening vocal solo, a piano interlude sets a tone of deep expressiveness that pervades the arrangement. The choral and accompanimental textures grow in richness through various verses, ultimately returning to the unadorned beauty of the vocal solo that began the piece.

This score is published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing. Press “Order Score” or Click here to view and listen.

Available as: SATB piano | SSA piano | TTBB piano


“Bright Morning Stars” is one of my favorite American folksongs.  In addition to its beautiful words and gracefully arching phrases, I appreciate the song’s irregularity of meter on the final phrase of each verse. There’s something “alive” about song material that unfolds beyond the careful borders of symmetry.

I learned “Bright Morning Stars” from my college roommate during a road trip as we shared songs in turn — the old-fashioned way of passing time.  I had never heard it before, and I made everyone in the car sing it again and again in harmony.  I especially liked the way the song linked the “external” imagery of dawn and morning stars to the corresponding “internal” movements of renewal that we all experience — “day a-breaking in my soul.”  Years later, in the tender time following my mother’s untimely death, I wrote the original SATB setting for chorus, soloist, and piano.

I made one addition to the original lyrics which ask, in turn, “O where are our dear fathers? O where are our dear mothers?”  (The response: “They are down in the valley praying.  They have gone to heaven shouting.”)  I added a final verse, in which the long-departed father and mothers have a chance to ask: “O where are our dear children?”  The response: “They’re upon the earth a-dancing.”  I like the image of those who have passed on and those who are yet present upon the earth calling to each other “across eternity.”

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