Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clara Scott

Songwriter and composer Clara Scott was born today in 1841 in Elk Grove, Illinois, near Chicago. She apparently lived in the Midwest for her whole life. In 1897 she was visiting friends in Dubuque, Iowa when she was thrown from a carriage that was hit by a runaway horse and died.

This tragedy came only one year after the publication of her first hymnal.
Truth in Song, for the Lovers of Truth Everywhere was published by a Chicago firm in 1896. Of the seventy-nine selections in the book, thirty-three have music by Scott, and many of those have lyrics by her as well. The majority of the selections are by women, in fact: three other composers and several more lyricists.

Scott composed primarily in the gospel song style, though some of her tunes feel like more standard four-part hymn tunes, and some are only refrains without the accompanying stanzas, meant to be sung in repetition. This one almost seems like a sort of camp song, where only one word changes in each verse (you may know I've got peace like a river).

God is Love; that Love surrounds me,
In that Love I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Love is mine, and all is well.
God is Love, pure Love,
God is Love, sweet Love,
That Love is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

God is Life; that Life surrounds me,
In that Life I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Life is mine, and all is well.
God is Life, pure Life,
God is Life, sweet Life,
That Life is is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

God is Health; that Health surrounds me,
In that Health I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Health is mine, and all is well.
God is Health, pure Health,
God is Health, sweet Health,
That Health is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

God is Peace; that Peace surrounds me,
In that Peace I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Peace is mine, and all is well.
God is Peace, pure Peace,
God is Peace, sweet Peace,
That Peace is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

God is Strength; that Strength surrounds me,
In that Strength I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Strength is mine, and all is well.
God is Strength, pure Strength,
God is Strength, sweet Strength,
That Strength is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

God is Joy; that Joy surrounds me,
In that Joy I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Joy is mine, and all is well.
God is Joy, pure Joy,
God is Joy, sweet Joy,
That Joy is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

God is Truth; that Truth surrounds me,
In that Truth I safely dwell,
’Tis above, beneath, within me,
Truth is mine, and all is well.
God is Truth, pure Truth,
God is Truth, sweet Truth,
That Truth is mine -— mine,
And all is well.

Clara H. Scott, 1895

After looking through Scott's work in Truth in Song, I described it as “Unitarian gospel songs” (as if there was such a thing) to some friends. The musical style is largely gospel, but the texts are not. Actually, the “Health” verse here suggests to me that she was perhaps acquainted with the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, though I haven't seen any of Scott's songs in the hymnals of that denomination.

One Year Ago: Clara Scott


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Interesting song. I don't see anything that would offend the Christian Scientists, the Unitarians, or even the Orthodox in it. It looks like a Gospel text to me, or at least an Epistle text.

Polly said...

Dear C.W.S.,

A few weeks ago in our church, we sang Clara Scott's beautiful hymn, "Open My Eyes, That I May See." I decided to find out more about her and found "Conjubilant with Song." I also found her hymn, "God is Love; that Love surrounds me," and immediately recognized it as a song quoted in our family history book by my aunt, who lived to be 100 years old (1903 - 2003).

I suspect that your insight that Clara Scott may have been acquainted with Mary Baker Eddy's writings may be quite true, since my great grandmother and most of the members of our family were early Christian Scientists. They also lived in Iowa and Illinois at the time Clara Scott was killed in an accident.

And there is further evidence: My aunt quotes an additional verse and her version of the main text of the song is slightly different. She quotes only a part of the verse "God is Love" and does not quote the other verses. I thought you would like to see her version, which my aunt's grandmother used to sing to her when she was a little girl:

I now am wise,
I now am true,
Patient, kind, and loving, too,
All things I am, can do and be
Through Christ the Truth that is in me.

God is Love.
That Love surrounds me.
In that Love I safely swell,
Tis above, beneath, within me,
God is Love, and Love is All.

Thanks for the work you are doing in bringing together these historic old songs.


C.W.S. said...

Thanks very much for writing, Polly - very interesting information from your family history. It's good to know that Clara Scott's work was remembered for so long.

Polly said...

Dear C.W.S.,

Thank you for your reply.

I spoke to my cousin - my aunt's daughter - who has been praying this song by Clara Scott, which she knows as "Prayer of Faith," every day ever since she can remember. She taught it to her children and says, "I HOPE our kids are still praying this prayer every day."

She has an additional verse:

God is my Health, I can't be sick;
God is my strength, unfailing quick;
God is my All, I know NO fear,
Since God and Love and Truth are here."

So Clara Scott's work is indeed living on. And her song "Open My Eyes, That I May See" is well known and played fairly often in the United Church of Christ churches in New England.

I was happy to hear that Clara Scott's hymn book, "Truth In Song For The Lovers Of Truth Everywhere (1896) has just been reprinted. I've ordered a copy and look forward to singing her other songs.


Polly said...

I see there is a typo in my version of Clara Scott's song:
The third line of the second verse should read (as it does in our family history and in Clara Scott's original):

"In that Love I safely DWELL."

Anonymous said...

Just heard Scott's hymn for the first time at a Christian hymn sing. One of the hymns in her book "Truth in Song" was written by a Clara Choate, who I believe was a student of Christian Science.