Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Music

First Advisor

Alan L. Spurgeon

Second Advisor

Debra Spurgeon

Third Advisor

Don Trott

Relational Format



The purpose of this descriptive study is to analyze the performance practice of lined-hymns that are sung in three selected African American Missionary Baptist churches located in the Northern Mississippi Delta region. ‘Dr. Watts’ lined-hymn singing has survived in some African American church denominations for approximately 150 years without the availability of a standardized printed musical notation source. Focus of the investigation is guided by five questions exploring the historical context, liturgical function, musical characteristics, performance practice, and method of learning of this musical tradition. Further examined are the role of the song leader, and cultural beliefs and philosophical differences of churches that maintain or do not foster this tradition. Pastors, deacons, ‘mothers’ (women elders), song leaders and choir members participated as interviewees. The musical analysis aims to identify characteristics that are comparable across three songs and between three churches. Three lined-hymns were selected as most familiar and were recorded within the churches’ regular Sunday morning worship services. The results suggest that the similarities of many elements i.e., tempo, melodic movement, performance procedures, and ornamentations were found frequently. Differences include usages of non-vocal instrumentation and tonality. In conjunction with identifying correlations across the three churches’ performance practice of the lined-hymns, the research also highlights other factors that need to be considered in maintaining and preserving this musical tradition.



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