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Gavin Bryars

Gavin Bryars

Country of origin: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Birthday: January 16, 1943

Upcoming Performances

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Klara Festival 2024
March 9, 2024 | Brussels (Belgium)
The Porazzi Fragment
Conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra: Lohjan Kaupunginorkesteri
March 28, 2024 | Lohja (Finland) , Karjalohjan kirkko — National Premiere

About Gavin Bryars

The music of Gavin Bryars falls under no category. It is mongrel, full of sensuality and wit and is deeply moving. He allows you to witness new wonders in the sounds around you by approaching them from a completely new angle. With a third ear maybe... - Michael Ondaatje

Gavin Bryars studied philosophy at Sheffield University and became a professional jazz bassist and a pioneer of free improvisation, working especially with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. In the late 1960s he worked with John Cage and this influenced early works such as the indeterminately scored The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) and the iconic Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971). From 1969 to 1978 he taught in departments of Fine Art at Portsmouth College of Artand Leicester Polytechnic, where he founded the department of music. He collaborated frequently with visual artists such as Bruce McLean, Tim Head, James Hugonin, Bill Woodrow, Will Alsop, and Juan Muñoz with whom he wrote A Man in a Room, Gambling (1992), and made installations and performance art for Tate Liverpool, Tate St. Ives, Chateau d'Oiron and other galleries.

Bryars’ catalogue includes an extensive body of works for dance. Numerous choreographers have been drawn to his music, and he has collaborated on new works with the likes of Lucinda Child, Laurie Booth, William Forsyth, and David Dawson. In 1999 he wrote BIPED with Merce Cunningham, and in 2002 he worked with Carolyn Carlson on Writings on Water for the Venice Biennale, which included The North Shore (2004) for solo viola, piano and strings, In Nomine (after Purcell) (1995; 2002) for strings, and the Violin Concerto "The Bulls of Bashan" (2000) among other works. In recent years Bryars has worked with Edouard Lock on a number of projects including The Third Light (2009), Amjad (2007) which toured internationally for two years, 11th Floor (2014) for Cullberg Ballet, The Heart of August (2017) for Ballet Vlaanderen and Trick Cell Play (2019) premiered by Sao Paulo Dance Company. Most recently, Bryars Requiem (2018), for chorus and orchestra, was premiered by the Dutch National Ballet and Matthew Row with choreography by David Dawson in 2019. 

Bryars’ opera Medea (1984) premièred at the Opéra de Lyon and Opéra de Paris and directed by Robert Wilson). It achieved critical success and led Bryars down a new compositional path. He has since written three further operas, two with libretti by his long time collaborator Blake Morrison: Doctor Ox's Experiment (English National Opera 1998, directed by Atom Egoyan, & also at Theater Dortmund, 1999), and G (2001-2, directed by Georges Delnon), commissioned by the Staatstheater Mainz for the Gutenberg 600th anniversary. Bryars’ has written two chamber operas: The Paper Nautilus (2006) which was premiered by Theatre Cryptic, with further productions at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Long Beach Opera, and Marilyn Forever (2010-13), presented by Aventa Ensemble in autumn 2013 in Victoria, Canada, with further productions at the Adelaide Festival where he was Composer in Residence in February 2015 and at Long Beach Opera the following month. Bryars’ most recent opera The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (2018) premiered in March 2018 presented by Percussion Clavier de Lyon in production with Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse, and subsequently toured through France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary. 

Bryars is particularly drawn to music for voice, resulting in a rich catalogue of choral and vocal works. Several fruitful collaborations with the Latvian Radio Choir and Estonian Male Voice Choir resulted in recordings on Bryars’ own label, GB Records. For many years he has worked with early music performers on successive Books of Madrigals: Book One (1998-2000) for The Hilliard Ensemble (texts by Blake Morrison), Book Two for (2001-02) the Trio Mediaeval Sextet (Petrarch sonnets), Book Three (2003-05) for Red Byrd (Petrarch, translated by Synge), Book Four (longer Petrarch poems), Book Five (‘I Tatti’ madrigals) in 2013, Book Six in 2015 plus two books of Irish Madrigals. He has written a large number of Laude (2008-12) for soprano Anna Maria Friman based on medieval Italian chants and set Faroese saga poetry in Tróndur í Gøtu (2008) for the Faroese bass Rúni Brattaberg following their work together on settings of old Icelandic saga poetry. His collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera North, Nothing Like the Sun (2007), toured the UK in 2007. Amongst his more substantial works for chorus is the recent Requiem (2018), written as part of a large-scale ballet collaboration with choreographer David Dawson for Dutch National Ballet. The Fifth Century (2014) for choir and saxophone quartet was premiered by The Crossing and Prism Saxophone Quartet and an ensuing recording with ECM went on to win a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance. A Native Hill, Bryars’ second work for The Crossing, was premiered and recorded in 2019. New to his list of vocal works includes his arrangement Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (2018) for choir and pre-recorded tape which received its premiere by The Song Company and Antony Pitts in 2021. 

2023 sees the 80th birthday year of Bryars which has seen performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Estonian National Male Choir, Kammerchor Berlin, and the world premiere of Harpsichord Concerto (2023) by Mahan Esfahani and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Bryars has produced a large body of chamber music, much of it written for his own ensemble, and works for string orchestra. His catalogue includes concertos for violin, viola, cello, double bass (plus one for jazz bass), saxophone, bass oboe and piano. His work has been widely recorded on labels including ECM, Hyperion, Point, Philips, Argo, Touch, Mode, and his own GB Records. In 2020, Le Mot et le reste published Jean Louis Tallon's Gavin Bryars: En paroles, en musique. 

 

Gavin Bryars - Website

Worklist

Chronology

1943

Richard Gavin Bryars born, January 16, Hook (near Goole), East Yorkshire

1954

Encounters the work of Jules Verne

1960

Cyril Ramsay introduces Gavin Bryars to music of John Cage

1961-64

Studies philosophy at the University of Sheffield

1962

Meets guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-2005), drummer Tony Oxley (b.1938) and pianist Gerry Rollinson (b.1938)

1964-66

Studies bass at Northern School of Music

1965

Studies composition with George Linstead (1908-1974)

1965

Improvising group, AMM, formed by saxophonist Lou Gare (1939-2017), percussionist Eddie Prévost (b. 1942) and guitarist Keith Rowe (b. 1940)

1966

Sees Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) Company at Saville Theatre, London, and meets John Cage (1912-1992)

1968

Studies composition with Ben Johnston (1926-2019)

1968

Album release of AMM's The Crypt by Matchless Records

1969

"Marvellous Aphorisms are Scattered Richly Through These Pages" premieres in Cardiff

1970

"Serenely Beaming and Leaning On A Five Barred Gate" premieres at Portsmouth College of Art

1971

Marries Angela Margaret Bigley (b. 1948), January 22

1971

World premiere of "1, 1, 1-2-3-4" in Liverpool

1972

London premieres of "The Sinking of the Titanic" and "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet"

1975

Records "The Sinking of the Titanic" and "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" for Brian Eno’s (b. 1948) newly established Obscure Editions

1975

World premiere of "Ponukelian Melody" at Lucy Milton Gallery, London

1976

World premiere of "White To Play (and Win)" in Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

1977

"Garden furniture" concert organised by John White at Air Gallery, London, inspires "Poggioli in Zaleski's Gazebo".

1978

"My First Homage" premieres in New York by Dave Smith and Gavin Bryars

1979

"The Cross-Channel Ferry" premieres in Paris

1980
Birth of first daughter Ziella, February 24
1980

"The Vespertine Park" premieres in Paris

1981

Meets director Robert Wilson (b. 1941) and begins collaboration on sketches for the "CIVIL WarS", intended for the 1984 Olympics

1982

Birth of second daughter Orlanda, December 4

1983

"Les Fiançailles" premieres in Vienna

1984

Works at Opéra de Lyon on production of "Medea" for Lyon and Paris

1984

"Effarene" premieres at St John Smith's Square

1985

"String Quartet No 1" (Between the National and the Bristol), premieres in Vienna

1986

ECM recording "Three Viennese Dancers" released

1986

First official performance of Gavin Bryars Ensemble, in Gent, Belgium

1987

Awarded personal chair in music at Leicester Polytechnic

1987

"The Old Tower of Löbenicht" premieres at Almeida Festival

1988

Performs "Invention of Tradition" at opening of Tate Liverpool

1988

"Glorious Hill" premieres at Hilliard Festival of Voices, Lewes

1989

"Cadman Requiem" premieres at the Conservatoire de Lyon

1989

Delta Saxophone Quartet premieres "Alaric I or II"

1990

Performs "The Sinking of the Titanic" in converted water tower, Printemps de Bourges Festival

1990

Channel 4 broadcasts television documentary on Bryars' work, produced by David Rowan

1991

Balanescu Quartet premieres "String Quartet No 2" at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

1992

"The White Lodge" premieres at London's Nettlefold Festival

1993

Makes first visit to Canada for concert with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, creates installation at Chateau d’Oiron, Deux-Sèvres

1993

Point Recording of "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet", with vocals by Tom Waits (b. 1949) is nominated for Mercury Music Prize

1994

"Wonderlawn" is premiered Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton

1995

"Cello Concerto" (Farewell to Philosophy) is premiered by the English Chamber Orchestra

1996

"The Adnan Songbook" premiered by Gavin Bryars Ensemble at Almeida Theatre

1997

Premieres of "And so ended Kant’s travelling in the world" and "Thee Poems of Cecco Angioleri" in Cambridge

1998

English National Opera performs world premiere of "Doctor Ox's Experiment"

1998

Death of mother Miriam Appleton, December 25; Bryars writes  "A Time and A Place" performed at her funeral

1999

Premiere of "BIPED" by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company

1999

Marries Anna Tchernakova (b. 1968)

1999

Birth of son, Yuri

2001

Creation of GB Records

2002

World premiere of opera "G..." in Mainz

2003

"Double Bass Concerto" premieres by Duncan McTier and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

2004

"Third Book of Madrigals" premieres at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

2005

"From Egil's Saga" premiered by London Sinfonietta and Cambridge University Chamber Choir

2006

"The Stones of the Arch" premiered by the Kronos Quartet & Theatre of Voices at Barbican Hall, London

2007

Premiere of "To Define Happiness" commissioned by von Krahl Theatrein Tallinn

2009

World premiere of "Cadman Requiem" with John Potter, The 24, and Gavin Bryars Ensemble in York

2010

World premiere of "The Third Light", commissioned by Koninklijk Ballet van Vlaanderen 

2012

"The Open Road" performed by Streetwise Opera as part of their interactive opera "The Answer to Everything" involving homeless people from all over the UK

2012

Premiere of "After the Underworlds" performed by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain at the BBC Proms

2013

Featured composer at the Canberra International Music Festival

2013

"Marilyn Forever" premieres at the McPherson Playhouse, Victoria, Canada, performed by Aventa

2014

"Pneuma" is premiered by the Ballet de l'Opéra National de Bordeaux with Philip Jeck, turntable maestro and choreography by Carolyn Carlson

2014

PRISM Saxophone Quartet, The Crossing, and Donald Nally premieres "The Fifth Century" in Philadelphia

2016

Premiere of "The Stopping Train" with Gavin Bryars Ensemble and Blake Morrison, narrator

2018

ECM New Series album The Fifth Century wins Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance

2018

"The Collected Works of Billy the Kid" premieres at le Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse with Claron McFadden, soprano, Bertrand Belin, baritone and Percussions Claviers de Lyon

2019

Dutch National Ballet and Matthew Rowe premieres "Requiem" in Amsterdam

2020

Publication of Jean Louis Tallon's Gavin Bryars : en paroles, en musique

2021

The Song Company premieres choral arrangement of "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" in Melbourne

2022

"Wittgenstein Fragments" premieres with Juliet Fraser, soprano, Silvija Ščerbavičiūtė, flute, and the Esposito Quartet

2023

World Premiere of "Harpsichord Concerto" by Mahan Esfahani at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Products

Performances

Set Descending Direction
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Klara Festival 2024
    March 9, 2024 | Brussels (Belgium)
  • The Porazzi Fragment
    Conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
    Orchestra: Lohjan Kaupunginorkesteri
    March 28, 2024 | Lohja (Finland) , Karjalohjan kirkko — National Premiere
  • Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
    Orchestra: Gavin Bryars Ensemble
    April 5, 2024 | Canterbury (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Canterbury Cathedral
  • The Sinking of the Titanic
    Orchestra: Gavin Bryars Ensemble
    April 5, 2024 | Canterbury (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Canterbury Cathedral
  • BIPED
    April 16, 2024 | Lyon (France) , Opera de Lyon
  • BIPED
    April 17, 2024 | Lyon (France) , Opera de Lyon
  • BIPED
    April 19, 2024 | Lyon (France) , Opera de Lyon
  • Harpsichord Concerto
    Conductor: Andrew Manze
    Orchestra: Orchestre National de Lyon
    April 20, 2024 | Lyon (France) , l’Auditorium de Lyon — National Premiere
  • BIPED
    April 20, 2024 | Lyon (France) , Opera de Lyon
  • BIPED
    April 21, 2024 | Lyon (France) , Opera de Lyon
  • BIPED
    April 26, 2024 | Łodzi (Poland) , Teatr Wielki w Łodzi
  • 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
    Orchestra: London Sinfonietta
    May 15, 2024 | Portsmouth (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Portsmouth Guildhall
  • The Fifth Century
    Conductor: Paul Stanhope
    Orchestra: SCM Choir and Brass Ensemble
    May 23, 2024 | Sydney, NSW (Australia) , Verbrugghen Hall
  • The Fifth Century
    Conductor: Paul Stanhope
    Orchestra: SCM Choir and Brass Ensemble
    June 28, 2024 | Sydney, NSW (Australia) , Great Hall
  • Set Descending Direction