Praise music from the past: “Morning Has Broken”

Latest in a series of posts dealing with music that could pop up at Mass, though some of it probably shouldn’t.

So let’s dispel with one popular misconception right off the bat: Cat Stevens did not write “Morning Has Broken,” though he certainly popularized it, making it one of the many Christian-themed songs that gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s.

Did not write this hymn.

The actual writer was a Brit named Eleanor Farjeon. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot is known about her; according to a site dedicated to her:

Eleanor Farjeon was an endearing, eccentric, gifted writer. She wrote about her own childhood; she wrote about the poet Edward Thomas, whom she loved; and she wrote countless plays, poems and stories, many of which achieved international recognition. But of Eleanor Farjeon the woman, little is known.

Apparently, most people in her house were writers. And she wrote a lot of stuff. And that’s about it about her. She was Catholic for at least part of her life; the sources I found conflict on for how long, though she apparently had converted from the Church of England. As for hymns, another well-known one she’s written is the Advent hymn “People, Look East.” 

Eleanor Farjeon (Photo credit: farjeon.org.)

The hymntune, “Bunessan,” predated Farjeon, and it’s been used in countless hymns. But I suspect it wouldn’t be as popular with Stevens finding himself loving the song.

This is, of course, still totally usable at Mass, and my parish uses it a decent amount. It’s prone to overuse, but I think it’s still one to keep in the rotation — that having been said, use the regular accompaniment, and don’t use the Cat Stevens one, which will be a distraction.

Though I admit, I have a copy of the sheet music for the Cat Stevens version at home. And it’s soooooo tempting to want to play it at Mass, believe me.

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