Een compositie voor Witte Donderdag

Voor Witte Donderdag en de aansluitende nacht: compositie van Gavin Bryars rond de zang van een Londense zwerver, naamloos gebleven. Je kunt zijn adem horen piepen en of hij nog tanden heeft? Hij heeft zijn eigen plaat nooit te horen gekregen, hij was al dood.

“Het bloed van Jezus heeft mij nooit in de steek gelaten
dit ene weet ik
want Hij heeft mij zo lief.”

Het onvertaalde verhaal rond de eerste bewerking van de opname:

“In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song – sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads – and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”. This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one. When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song – 13 bars in length – formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way (in the notes for the 1993 recording on Point, Bryars wrote that while the singer’s pitch was quite accurate, his sense of tempo was irregular).
I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping. I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man’s singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the homeless man’s nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.”

Er zijn opnamen waarbij Tom Waits langzaamaan de stem van “De Zwerver” overneemt. Een kort filmpje hiervan: