Psalm 143: O Lord, Hear My Prayer

Update 2/4/22: Sheet music for this song is now available at gregscheer.com.

The latest in my ongoing exploration of jazz Psalms is what is known as a responsorial Psalm. This is a form of chant in which the bulk of the Psalm text is chanted on a chant tone, a single note which continues until the phrase of text is finished and closes on a cadence. This allows for texts of varying lengths and a song that follows the Psalm very closely. The chanted verses are usually sung by a cantor (a fancy word for lead singer) and then the congregation sings a short refrain in response. (Hence, responsorial.)

This is way more complicated to explain than to sing.

This song uses the traditional Roman Catholic chanted text for Psalm 143, intended for use in funerals. The refrain is a singable melody over a ii-V-I jazz harmony. The verses work like a regular chant tone except that the musicians vamp under extended chant sections and add a quick turnaround between each phrase. Once again, I’ve made it more complicated than it sounds. Just take a listen.

O Lord, hear my prayer.

1. O Lord, hear my prayer; hearken to my pleading in your faithfulness;
in your justice answer me.
And enter not into judgment with your servant,
for before you no living man is just. [R]

2. I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all your doings; the works of your hands I ponder.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like parched land. [R]

3. Hasten to answer me, O Lord;
for my spirit fails me.
At dawn let me hear of your mercy,
for in you I trust. [R]

4. Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
May your good spirit guide me
on level ground. [R]

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