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Take the time to treat yourself.
on 25 July 2005
The piece Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet leaves you acutely reflective and deeply touched, not to mention desperate to know what has become of the man. The old man heard on the 25 minute track is apparently not a drunk, though he was homeless when Gavin Bryars recorded him singing. His voice is all at once innocent, sweet, tender, elderly and fragile. But the words he sings are full of optimism and strength. Though I am not in the slightest a religious person, there is something profoundly spiritual in this minimalist composition. The voice, which is looped throughout the whole work, is at first heard alone, determined and insistent. It is so very slowly joined by instruments of the orchestra, as if they are not altogether convinced, but touched by his sentiments. As they continue in the loop and others join they gain strength and their voices become as certain as the old man's.
On many levels you can find something allegorical about this work. In one sense the old man is like a shepherd, the orchestra his flock, being brought to safety by his continuous calling. In another, the orchestra are like his faith, closing round him, like the hand of his god, protecting him, giving him strength. As I have stated, I am not religious, so for me the most profound aspect of the work is the lack of awareness this voice has of the developing accompaniment around him, his ignorance of the beauty enveloping his simple honesty, and the questions the piece evokes about the whole idea of ignorance and faith.