Wednesday morning we had Kevin and Lorriann Metcalf come and lead us in a time of worship to conclude our executive conference. Kevin is such a talented musician and he and Loriann led us in a wonderful time of reflection, song and prayer. It was frankly restorative! Maybe you know what I mean – you’ve been pushing along and giving to others and your feeling very depleted. Or sometimes you feel like weather, circumstances, and a general sense of “need” push you to look for something to refresh your sense of peace and tranquility. That’s what I mean – I was feeling the simple need for water, like a plant that droops a bit from a lack of watering!
And this half-hour was just that. Refreshing.
I suppose that’s why the Psalmist says in Psalm 23, “he restores my soul”. Yup – God restores my soul. Gave me on that morning a sense of His presence and peace in my life.
One of the songs that Kevin brought to us is a wonderfully haunting song. The song as recorded below is explained by Bryars, who recorded this and the accompaniment which shows up in the early part of the tape. Here are Bryar’s words:
“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 realized 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.”
Here’s the wonderful tune and the old man’s voice – let it play for a while and if you wish, leave me a comment about what you thought. I will tell you that if you track some of the comments on YouTube you will read one who says, “I am an atheist but this song touches me deeply..”
Isn’t it interesting how music goes beyond our heads, to our hearts?
Don’t let your doubts push you away – let your heart have a say too.