Why Have You Abandoned Me (2002)
Text based on Psalm 22
Music by Adam Reifsteck
Instrumentation: SATB choir, piano, flute, cello
The Book of Psalms is a rich treasury of praises, confessions, laments, and celebrations that have become a useful basis for prayers and songs not only in the church setting, but in concert choral settings as well. One of the most intriguing aspects of the Psalms is their duality. Psalm 22 in particular, begins with a stark feeling of loneliness and abandonment from God. The author of the Psalm then shows that even in despair there is hope. Perhaps what the psalmist is trying to convey is that even though we may feel lost and alone, God wants to become part of our lives and give us hope to continue through our difficult times.
Psalm 22 is a very intense scripture passage. Despite the excruciating cries, the laments are characteristically confident in God's help, no matter how grave the present circumstances. “God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.” (Ps 22:25) This balance of honesty about suffering along with persistent faith in a silent God inspired me to capture the essences of the psalm with music.
When I began a musical setting of the Psalm, the presence of explicit themes led me to try to create a musical statement in a bold, clear fashion. Therefore, I separated the Psalm in to a verse-refrain format. Although the text is very dark, I wanted to create a piece that captured the duality of the Psalm. I didn’t merely want to paint the text with the music of my paraphrased version of Psalm 22. I wanted to use warm chords to give that feeling of hope even though often we feel despondent. In the third verse, I used complex harmonies in the choir to try to capture a yearning for the presence of God. In the instrumental parts, particularly the cello, I wanted to capture the feeling of imploring God’s help that I felt was inherent in the words of the Psalm.