Full orchestra version of Jesus’ Blood
September 29, 2020

Almost 50 years after its composition, and after many different versions of the piece, my publisher Schott has put together material for a fixed 30 minute orchestral version of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. All other versions continue to be performed, but this is the first time that it has been available in such a way that the need to raise questions with me is no longer necessary – as it has been to date, when someone other than myself conducts an orchestral performance.

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. In fact, there had been several orchestral performances earlier where I muddled through with the old material: Winnipeg in 1994, Orchestre de Picadie and Opera de Rouen, both 2005. With the Copenhagen Philharmonic in 2008 I did three versions in one night, each one within an hour, followed by a break until the start of the next hour. First was a 30 minute strings and harp version; then a second 30 minute version for wind, percussion and organ; and finally, a 40 minute version for full orchestra. In the lead up to each hour there were short pieces played, including the concert premiere of A Time and a Place for organ (written for my mother’s funeral)… The version presented here for orchestra (fixed forces and 30 minutes duration) was prepared for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 2017. This followed a performance that I conducted with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 2015, where full orchestral material was finally put together with the help of the orchestral librarian. The 2017 performance in Cardiff was conducted by Clark Rundell, who needed no intervention from me at all…

The score and performing material of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet published by Schott comprises everything that is sanctioned for performance or recording. The use of an obligato voice, improvised or otherwise, is expressly forbidden and cannot be authorised except by the composer. The recording by the composer on Point Music, in which Tom Waits’ voice is added during the later stages of the performance, is unique. His voice was used only for this specific occasion, growing out of the personal relationship between Tom Waits and the composer and does not represent in any way a precedent for others.

Gavin Bryars