Psalm 13: How Long?

Update 1/25/22: Sheet music for this song is now available at gregscheer.com.

I continue to experiment with the intersection of Jazz and Psalmody. Will my experiments prove fruitful? Who knows. But I’ve learned that experimentation–play–is an important part of music growth, so I’ll continue to follow this path to see where it leads.

In this case, it led to Psalm 13, the loneliest of Psalms. It begins with the famous words, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” Many people have set this Psalm to music, so it’s unlikely that anything I will say will be entirely original. In my setting, I cast the “enemy” named in the Psalm as depression. The clues are all there: endless sorrow, feeling forgotten, emotional turmoil–even the lethargy and over-sleep that often accompanies depression. The Psalmist poignantly prays to be seen: “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.” Certainly, we’ve all felt some of this at some point.

Musically, I accompanied this sad Psalm with a descending chromatic melody, mirroring the emotional plunge that depression brings. The opening melody is also a large hemiola, with 3-note “how longs” against the 4/4 meter. It’s not the easiest song to sing; I’m not entirely sure how well a congregation would do with it.

As you listen to the recording, you may wonder “Who are those fine musicians accompanying Greg?” They are all virtual instrumentalists! This is my first foray into using Band-in-a-Box as part of my demo process. I would say it worked exceedingly well. (Now if we could just do something about that singer!)

How long? How long? How long, O Lord?

1. How long will you forget me?
Will you keep turning away from me?
How long to drown in sorrow?
Lord, will tomorrow bring no relief? (refrain)

2. How long until you see me,
until you save me from endless sleep?
How long until your light shines
and hope fills my eyes? Lord, rescue me! (refrain)

3. I trust in love unfailing;
of your salvation, my heart will sing.
How long to lift God’s praises?
I will proclaim: you’re so good to me! (refrain)

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