Gavin Bryars: Never Failed Me Yet

Exploring the Many Colors of Gavin Bryars's Musical Universe

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not since our festivals for Steve Reich and JacobTV has Q2 devoted such extensive programming to the sound world of one composer, but beginning today, April 14, we're proud to launch our third immersive, multimedia deep-dive into the mind and music of one composer, Gavin Bryars. Each day, from April 14-20, we spotlight a different aspect of a style informed by jazz, minimalism, Renaissance polyphony and constant experimentation. 

Every day includes insights provided by Bryars himself to many of the featured pieces. We hope you'll join us for the festival!

  • Thursday, April 14: The Sinking of the Titanic. We begin with the first piece in Bryars's now extensive catalogue: The Sinking of the Titanic from 1969. Throughout the day, hear multiple versions of this meditation on the circumstances surrounding the Titantic's demise back in the early morning of April 15, 1912. Hear versions from the Gavin Bryars Ensemble; the Smith Quartet as recorded live at the Bang on a Can Marathon; and the Alter Ego recording from the 2005 49th International Festival of Contemporary Music of Venice Biennale. The day culminates with a live version, Webcast from the Guggenheim Museum at 8:50 p.m. ET with the Wordless Music Orchestra.

  • Friday, April 15: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Described by Bryars as a "testament to this one man's simple faith," Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet is based on a simple 26-second loop of a homeless man's poingant profession of faith and has come to occupy a pivotal moment in the artistic growth of many a musician and music-lover. Hear distinct versions of this piece throughout the day, including ones from the balladeer Tom Waits.

  • Saturday, April 16: Choral Fixation. Many strands of Bryars's distinctive approach to composing come together in his works for large vocal ensemble: his gift for melodic line, affinity for the lower registers, passion for the voice, and belief in the ennobling virtue of music-making. Hear some of his masterstrokes for choir, including Cadman Requiem, On Photography and Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri.

  • Sunday, April 17: Madrigals and Lauda. End your weekend with a pointillistic canvas of pieces for solo voice and small vocal ensemble, including the beautiful sets of Madrigals and Lauda that Bryars has been composing over a richly prolific career for groups such as his own ensemble and the illustrious Trio Mediaeval.

  • Monday, April 18: A Concerto By Any Other Name. The New Canon host Olivia Giovetti fills in for Nadia Sirota from 12-4, a.m. and p.m., beginning Monday for a guided tour through works for solo instruments and ensemble, including concertos for saxophone, cello, tuned percussion and violin. Concertos of other persuasions will be heard throughout the day.

  • Tuesday, April 19: Profound Strings. Originally an improvising jazz double bassist before focusing on composition in the mid-1960s, Bryars makes no secret of his affinity for low strings, both as a performer and composer. His writing for low strings is evocative and compelling and you can listen all day for exemplary works, including his string quartets and pieces for cello and double bass. 

  • Wednesday, April 20: Kaleidoscope. On the final the day of Never Failed Me Yet, explore a shifting, polychromatic trip through the vast repertoire of a composer versed in solo instrumental, chamber, vocal, choral, orchestral and stage music. Given the positive response to the festival, we're clearing the schedule for a 24-hour, non-stop Gavin Bryars marathon. Celebrate with almost 40 introductions by Bryars himself to pieces spanning an entire creative output. 


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Comments [7]

I have been listening to “Jesus’s Blood” and the “Titanic” piece. As the first few notes of the “Titanic” began, I was transported to the ship’s deck, at night, as the Titanic was going down. The music captured the moment perfectly for me, and, I felt as if I were part of the catastrophe, as if I were there. A very moving moment.
Although I have never been a follower of gospel music, from personal experience I am well aware of really serious, old time, gospel singers. “Jesus’s Blood” brought me, right back to the home of my youth, in the deep south.
Mr. Bryars, you paint beautiful, vivid portraits with your wonderful music. I look forward to hearing, and seeing, more. Thank you.


May. 10 2011 10:37 AM
Richard Francis from Maine

And I am enjoying it too from our small village on the coast of Maine...
Thanks, maestro

Apr. 24 2011 08:57 AM

Agree about the concerto, Richard. And I"m loving hearing "Four Elements" again tonight (16 April). Comes across like sweet worry, beautiful, ranging woodwinds (sax, flugelhorn) resolving into that ominous fourth-section (Fire) basso bed under a vocalise that David James first sang in alto. It was set on Ballet Rambert (which I first saw at the Theatre Royal in Bath) by Lucinda Childs. Still has every bit the kick it had in 1990. I'm trying to remember whether it was part of Nadia Sirota's week on music for dance. Mesmerizing work.

Apr. 16 2011 08:51 PM

I bought the album with the Piano Concerto after listening for about 10 minutes. Wonderful.

Apr. 15 2011 06:21 PM

Grand to see a note from you here, Mr. Bryars, all self-regarding welcome and well-earned! Thoroughly enjoying this focus on your work -- right now, "The Black River" (Sarah Leonard) with your superb introductory note about Stevie Wonder on the train. Do keep looking in, as we listen to all your work, here on what many of us believe is the rightfully positioned (global) best vortex for New Music: the mighty Q2. All the best and thanks for such powerful, engaging, nourishing music!
- Porter Anderson

Apr. 15 2011 07:54 AM

Maybe it's a bit self-regarding, but I did check in to see how things are going, and will continue to do so from time to time from my small village in the middle of England. All the best to you. Gavin Bryars

Apr. 14 2011 08:54 PM
Richard Friedman Music From Other Minds from Oakland CA

Don't forget the new release of Gavin's Piano Concerto "The Solway Canal" on Naxos with Ralph van Raat. It's spectacular.

Kudos for doing this series on Bryars.

Apr. 14 2011 02:34 PM

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