Note: All versions/arrangements of Adonai Ro’i are published by composer Gerald Cohen.
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Adonai Ro’i was originally written, on the loss of a dear friend, as a solo a cappella melody. I am a cantor, and a dear friend and congregant died of cancer at the age of 42 in 1989. Her husband asked me to sing at her funeral, and I decided to write a setting of Psalm 23, which is traditionally sung at Jewish funerals and memorial services. This was indeed one of those cases of a piece of music just writing itself, in the course of perhaps 30 minutes, as I was filled with the emotions of my friend’s death.
As I started singing the piece at other services, I received a very strong response to it, and decided to make a piano accompaniment. This was published in 1995, and soon was used by cantors all over the country, as well as in churches and other services and concerts. It is a very curious thing for a composer: I write many pieces of music of all kinds, and it is hard to know exactly why one particular piece captures people’s emotions so strongly, but that is what happened with this particular piece.
I was soon asked by the Zamir Chorale of Boston (Joshua Jacobson, conductor) to write a version for SATB chorus, and that version has also been widely performed. I have also arranged it for solo voice and orchestra, and chorus and orchestra; these versions have been performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony.
I just have to assume that the piece somehow taps into the strong emotions that I felt as I was writing it (I had also lost my father about 8 years before, so I am sure that loss is present as well), and that this then communicates itself to performers, listeners, and mourners. In 2003, I had the sad but powerful experience of singing the piece at my mother’s funeral.
I am grateful that this piece has become a way for so many to express deep and delicate feelings. I hope that, if it is a piece that is meaningful to you, that you will feel free to contact me about your experience with it.
I have arranged Adonai Ro’i for many different vocal and instrumental ensembles; a selection of those are listed here. Please contact me with questions about these or other arrangements:
SOLO VOICE OR UNISON CHORUS
Solo voice or unison chorus with piano
Solo voice or unison chorus with piano and obbligato instrument (Flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, etc.)
Solo voice or unison chorus with string quartet
Solo voice or unison chorus with piano trio (vn/vc/pno)
Solo voice or unison chorus with orchestra
Solo voice or unison chorus with string orchestra
SATB, SSA, etc.
SATB chorus with piano
SATB chorus with orchestra or string orchestra
SSA chorus with piano
Two voices, a cappella
Solo instrument with piano
Two clarinets and piano
Clarinet, viola and piano
Adonai Ro’i has somewhat of a different performance history from many of my compositions, as it is used, probably every day, by cantors all over the world at funerals and memorial services.
A few of its most significant concert performances are listed here:
November 2010: American Conference of Cantors, Lauren Bandman, cond., Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, Rome, Italy
December 2004: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Meyer, cond., with the Children’s Festival Chorus, Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh PA
October 2002: Usdan Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (premiere of version for SATB with orchestra)
November 2000: Zamir Chorale of Boston, Joshua Jacobson, cond. (premiere of SATB version)
March 2000: Marin Cosman, soprano; San Diego Symphony, Jung-Ho Pak, cond., (premiere of version for solo voice with orchestra)
1997: Featured in the film, The Jew in the Lotus, with Gerald Cohen, baritone
May 1994: Syracuse Children’s Chorus, Barbara Tagg, cond. (premiere of unison chorus version)
by Eric Haines Hebrew liturgy provides blessings for every major event in the Jewish life cycle. Blessings for children, weddings, the Kaddish, the Kol Nidre and the Song of Solomon have inspired composers to write works that deserve a place on the concert stage. The Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival ended its three-concert season on Tuesday […]
by Sheila Steinman Wallace In one of the most cohesive and moving concerts I have heard from this community chorus, Voces Novae presented “Choral Portraits: Gerald Cohen, Eleanor Daley and Eric Whitacre” on Sunday, March 7. … Gerald Cohen’s “Adonai Ro’i” (Psalm 23) has long been a personal favorite. The chorus and soloist Sarah Nettleton […]