World Première a cappella recording of Gavin Bryars's Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet [excerpt]








Gavin Bryars (1943–)Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

"In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song – sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads – and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet. This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song – 13 bars in length – formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way [in the notes for the 1993 recording on Point, Bryars wrote that while the singer's pitch was quite accurate, his sense of tempo was irregular]. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the homeless man's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism."  (G.B.)

Originally scheduled for The Song Company's 2020 touring season collaborating with ensembles around Australia, Burden of Truth comprises the world première recording of a brand-new 32-voice arrangement of Gavin Bryars’s iconic minimalist epic, Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, and Antony Pitts’s 25-voice reworking of the extraordinary and visionary 13-part canon in the Eton Choirbook, Jesus autem transiens. During the months of lockdown The Song Company has recorded this project with over 30 professional singers including all of our Principal, Associate, Ensemble, as well as Emeriti Artists, and one or two special Guests, each taking part by recording individual parts remotely. 


The Song Company:
Sopranos Amy Moore | Anna Fraser | Bonnie de la Hunty | Chloe Lankshear | Josie Ryan | Roberta Diamond | Susannah Lawergren
Altos Carmel de Jager | Janine Harris | Jessica O’Donoghue | Max Riebl | Oscar Smith | Pip Dracakis | Steph Dillon
Tenors Christopher Watson | Dan Walker |  Ethan Taylor | Koen van Stade | Richard Butler | Robert Macfarlane
Basses Andrew O’Connor | David Hidden | Hayden Barrington | Lincoln Law | Lucien Fischer | Mark Donnelly | Thomas Flint
Director Antony Pitts

With the University Of Western Australia Conservatorium Of Music, and Canberra's The Oriana Chorale