The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #89700 Message #1693837
Posted By: johnross
14-Mar-06 - 07:52 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Bright Morning Star
Subject: RE: Origins: Bright Morning Star
"Bright Morning Stars" appears in Ruth Crawford Seeger's "American Folk Songs for Christmas" (Doubleday, 1953), where she credits it to "AAFS 1379 A1." In other words, she got the song from the Archive of American Folksong at the Library of Congress. I assume that "1379 A1" identifies the original field recording. The source is identified as "Kentucky."
The song also appears on the Folkways LP of the same title (American Folk Songs for Christmas, FC 7553), "Sung and played by her daughters Peggy, Barbara, and Penny, assisted by a group of children from the South Boston Music School."
In 1968, Robin Christenson rediscovered the song in the Seeger book and arranged it for four voices. Robin & Ellen Christenson and Tony & Irene Saletan (Ellen and Irene were -- still are -- the Kossoy Sisters) sang it at the 1968 Fox Hollow Festival, where it was picked up by many other singers. It rapidly entered the common repertoire. Within a few years, it was recorded by The Pennywhistlers, The Young Tradition and on Tony & Irene's Folk Legacy LP.
Meantime, it had also been widely sung in Kentucky. It was recorded by the Stanley Brothers, and also by the Kentucky singer George Tucker. Tucker once told me he got the song from a hymnbook called "The Baptist Sweet Songster."
The only "Sweet Songster" I can find is a collection called "The Sweet Songster, a Collection of the Most Popular and Approved Songs, Hymns and Ballads," by Edward W. Billups, published in Catlettsburg, Kentucky in 1854. This seems to have been one of the standard hymnbooks used by the Old Regular Baptists.
I can't guarantee that "Bright Morning Stars" is in the Billups collection, but it would be worth a look if you can find a copy.