The Gavin Bryars Ensemble

Wednesday 10 November 2021

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Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet and The Sinking of the Titanic

The seminal British composer Gavin Bryars brings his Ensemble back to the Howard Assembly Room for a programme built around two of his greatest works.

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet  began with a discarded recording of an unknown homeless man singing unaccompanied. Discovering that this fragment – a few lines from a misremembered gospel song – was accurate in pitch, Bryars set about building an exquisite, swelling arrangement of brass and strings around it, a process that he has likened to setting a jewel.

First performed in 1972, it was subsequently recorded for Brian Eno’s Obscure label. A later version was made with Tom Waits’ vocals, and more recently Bryars directed a 12-hour overnight performance in London’s Tate Modern.

Inspired by the story that the ship’s band continued to perform as it slid beneath the waves, The Sinking of the Titanic  imagines how the sound would reverberate through the medium of water: “The music goes through a number of different states, reflecting an implied slow descent to the ocean bed”, says Bryars.


Start time

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The Flower of Friendship
The Sinking of the Titanic
– Interval –
It Never Rains
Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Epilogue from Wonderlawn

Download the Digital Programme 


Born in Goole in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Gavin Bryars became a jazz bassist whilst studying philosophy at university. This fateful detour began a journey that has taken in the birth of free jazz with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley, touring with Lee Konitz, studies with John Cage, the founding of the Portsmouth Sinfonia, collaborations with everyone from Brian Eno and Tom Waits to the Spanish artist Juan Muñoz, and his own expansive – and ever-expanding – oeuvre, currently comprising five operas, concertos, quartets and works for small ensembles, and a large body of vocal and choral music.  

During last year’s lockdown he recorded an Opera North podcast in conversation with Poet Laureate Simon Armitage: 


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The Gavin Bryars Ensemble

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