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Brightest and best are the sons of the morning – Epiphany

First line:
Brightest and best are the sons of the morning
NEH 49ii
author of text

After the birth of Jesus in the stable, Matthew’s Gospel gives us the odd story of the visit of the Magi with their three strange gifts, celebrated in this colourful hymn. Here we are at the birth of a new kind of singing in church, with a clergyman of the mainline of the Church of England writing this, the first to be published of a sequence of hymns to be sung alongside the lessons for the Church’s year in The Book of Common Prayer. It took until after Heber’s untimely death as Bishop of Calcutta for his hymns to be published. But thereafter, and for the rest of the nineteenth century, a multitude of gifted writers followed him to provide all the churches with a new kind of English hymn. The rushing rhythm of the words (technically ‘dactylic’) carries us through a variety of imagery that is not always totally clear, nor biblical, but is always effective.

A number of older tunes have been proposed for these words, and a number of new ones written, but the popular choice has been ‘Epiphany Hymn’, rhythmically a little pedestrian, but certainly joyful, the work of a distinguished mid-nineteenth-century clergyman.

from notes by Alan Luff © 2002


The English Hymn, Vol. 3 - Hills of the north, rejoice
CDP12103Archive Service


Track 5 on CDP12103 [2'46] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDP12103 track 5

Recording date
19 June 2002
Recording venue
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Hymn, Vol. 3 - Hills of the north, rejoice (CDP12103)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: September 2002
    Deletion date: September 2016
    Archive Service
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