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R&S: High School Choirs

Octavo of the Month (September 2006)
Mike Walag, ICDA High School R&S Chair

Bright Morning Stars

Shawn Kirchner
Santa Barbara, SBMP 594
SATB, piano
Medium Difficulty, 5:00

What a find!  This is a wonderful arrangement of a touching Appalachain folk song.  It opens and closes with a baritone solo singing the simplistic, yet soulful melody.  The lyrics link the external imagery of dawn and morning stars to the internal waking and renewal of our souls.  A male choir (or quartet) opens the first verse asking “Where are our dear Fathers?”, which is answered by the full choir singing “They are down in the valley praying”.   Shawn Kirchner has added one final verse to the original folk song, where the departed Fathers and Mothers ask “where are our dear children?”, answered by “They’re upon the earth a-dancing.”  The composer “likes the image of those who have passed on and those who are yet present upon the earth calling to each other across eternity”.

Mr. Kirchner has written some beautiful harmonies to accompany this folk melody.  The textures are rich and varied with occasional divisii and both homophonic and polyphonic utterances.  The piano accompaniment adds both power and nuance to the vocal parts.  I think you will find this piece not only a fine teaching tool, but a powerful musical expression of all that we value in singing from the soul.

See and listen to the complete scores by this fine composer at

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