“The Role of Singing in the Christian Science Church: The Forming of a Tradition”
Robertson, Patricia L. “The Role of Singing in the Christian Science Church: The Forming of a Tradition.” PhD Dissertation, New York University, 1996.
Robertson’s dissertation includes a comprehensive historical survey of music in the Christian Science faith. She explains the invaluable role music played as a spiritual foundation to Mary Baker Eddy’s life as well as her 19th-century discovery of Christian Science. Following a brief history of religion in America, Robertson sets the Christian Science Church in the context of New England theological thought and praxis, demonstrating how at first it incorporated already existing music (Henry Ward Beecher’s “The Plymouth Collection,” German and English Masters, folk and choral music). The mid-to-late 19th-century American music style appealed to the Christian Science self-expression: the building of grand concert halls and churches and the rise of theatrical vocal performances in Christian church services employing professional vocal quartets and opera singers. However, the subsequent move away from this period of exhibitionism in the Christian Science church through the influence of German Lieder and French Art Song left the greatest impact on Christian Science solo music, glorifying God, not the singer. The Christian Science Church began to create its own music to suit its own particular needs and created its own new tradition. Robertson also reviews the 1932 revision of the Christian Science hymnal, including Eddy’s poems set as hymns and an emphasis on hymns that were joyful to sing and brought healing. [Editors’ note: Subsequent to Robertson’s dissertation, a Christian Science Hymnal with 173 additional hymns was published in 2017.]