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Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

for pre-recorded tape and orchestra
for pre-recorded tape and orchestra
Edition: Performance material, Fixed instrumentation, 30 minutes duration

Product Details


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. 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 tramp’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.

The piece was conceived as a flexible work for any forces and any duration, over its lifetime it has been performed in countless different versions and is regularly used by choreographers.  It was first recorded on Brian Eno’s Obscure label in 1975, other notable versions include an extended version for Point Records in 1993, a choral version written for The Song Company in 2018 and a 12 hour overnight version with orchestra and homeless choir presented at Tate Modern London in 2019.  The version presented here for orchestra (fixed forces and 30 minutes duration) was developed for performances with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 2015 and BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 2017.

Gavin Bryars 2020

Orchestral Cast

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More Information

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
for pre-recorded tape and orchestra
Performance material, Fixed instrumentation, 30 minutes duration
Schott Music Ltd., London
Year of composition:
30 ′

Technical Details

Product number:
LSL 10494

Preview/Media Contents



Set Ascending Direction
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Conductor: David Cohen
    Orchestra: Stift International Music Festival Ensemble
    August 19, 2024 | Oldenzaal (Netherlands) , Plechelmus Basiliek
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Orchestra: London Sinfonietta
    May 15, 2024 | Portsmouth (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Portsmouth Guildhall
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Conductor: Rumon Gamba
    Orchestra: Oulu Sinfonia
    August 17, 2023 | Oulu (Finland) , Madetojan sali
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Conductor: Darragh Morgan
    Orchestra: Chamber Music on Valentia
    August 19, 2022 | Valentia (Ireland) , Church of St. John's the Baptist
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Conductor: Jonathan Tooby
    Orchestra: Darwin Symphony Orchestra
    June 7, 2022 | Darwin (Australia) , Browns Mart Theatre
  • Set Ascending Direction


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