Thought for the Day 22nd June 2020
Scripture Extract : Matthew 13, 44 - 45
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Listening to Radio 3 a couple of Sundays ago, I heard something which moved me to tears. It wasn’t a beautifully crafted sonata or the transcendent sound of a symphony orchestra, but the voice of an old man, singing in frail, Cockney tones, set against an instrumental background of shifting, swirling chords and harmonies. The words which the man was chanting, over and over again, were: “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet, never failed me yet.”
Fascinated, I consulted Wikipedia, and found that the piece is famous. Composer Gavin Bryars was working in 1971 on a film about people living rough in south east London, using their recorded voices. The snippet of tape was an unused outtake. Bryars picks up the tale:
“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……. 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."
Nobody knows the story of this old man’s life, his background, his sufferings, why he had ended up on the street. But what we do know is that this person, who, in worldly terms had nothing, had found that treasure, that pearl of great price, faith in Jesus.
Prayer : Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. A New Zealand Prayer Book
Holy and eternal God, give us such trust in your sure purpose, that we measure our lives, not by what we have done or failed to do, but by our faithfulness to you.
Music: Jesus’ Blood never failed me yet