March 21, 2010 – 3:55 am

The sound of distant drums and a rumour of war.

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‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ [no label, 1CD]
with the Vlaams Radio Orkest

Live at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles, Belgium, Sept 17, 2005. Conductor Gavin Bryars. Ex FM stereo.

Jesus’ blood never failed me yet
never failed me yet
Jesus’ blood never failed me yet
this one thing i know
for He loves me so

As she lay on the cold ceramic tiles in the one-room flat, the woman began to worry. ‘Where was her brother?’

Paralysed by a stroke about nine years ago, she had depended on the younger man for all her daily needs. For two days, however, no one tended to her - until late Saturday morning in January this year. That was after the woman pleaded in Cantonese: “Please, someone give me food. I’m hungry. Please.”

It was only then that neighbours discovered her brother’s body in the eighth-storey unit at North Bridge Road off Beach Road.

Unknown to the woman, the body of her only caregiver, Mr Cheng, 56, was just a few feet behind her. It is believed that he had been dead for about two days. The cause of his death is unknown, though he is believed to have been suffering from throat cancer for about three years.

Mr Hong, 83, who lives in the opposite unit, had hobbled out to check on the woman after he heard her cries. Speaking in Cantonese, he said: “It was odd to hear the woman calling for help and so I went over to see what happened.”

Mr Hong found the old woman, who is also believed to be suffering from senile dementia, lying near the half-opened door. He said: “She asked me to call out for her brother, adding that she did not know where he had gone. She kept muttering that he’d never left her at home for so long.”

Just as Mr Hong turned away to call out to another neighbour a few units away, he thought he saw something looking like a pair of feet. While he waited for the other neighbour to walk over, he pushed the door open. Mr Hong said: “I was shocked to see Mr Cheng lying on the floor just outside the toilet.”

Both he and the woman neighbour kept calling out to the man but there was no response. They realised that Mr Cheng could be dead only when the foul smell hit them. They called the police.

Both neighbours spoke of a strong bond between brother and sister - and a love that saw them through illness, despite uncertainty and financial hardship.

While details of their past are vague, the neighbour said in Mandarin: “After the sister suffered a stroke about nine years ago, she became paralysed.” Mr Cheng soon quit his job to look after his sister full-time.

Said the neighbour: “He saw to all her needs - from feeding her, bathing her, carrying her to and from the toilet, day in day out.” She added: “He went from a burly and stout man to one who was almost reed-thin.” Yet, Mr Cheng never once complained - even as his sister slowly became senile and would sometimes chide him, calling him “suay zai” (bad boy in Cantonese).

When some other neighbours suggested that Mr Cheng let his sister wear adult diapers to ease his burden, he refused. Mr Hong said: “He’d say there was no way he was going to humiliate her by treating her like she’s some imbecile.

“He always told me, ‘If I can’t even do something so simple, I am not fit to be a man’.”

Their flat is sparsely furnished. There is no TV or refrigerator. They made do with only a small foldable table and some stools. Their only luxury was a single bed.

Mr Hong said: “The sister slept on the bed, while Mr Cheng would sleep on a thin mattress on the floor.” Their only form of entertainment was Mr Cheng singing to his sister “when she remembered to grumble she was bored”. Most times, he’d just chat with her, said Mr Hong.

Mr Cheng rarely left his sister at home for long. He left only to buy their meals - usually a packet of rice with vegetables to be shared between them. When he found out he had cancer three years ago, he asked neighbours if he should go for surgery.

Money woes aside, he was more worried that no one would take care of his sister, said the woman neighbour.

She said: “Before he was sick, he’d tell us that he’d look after his sister till she’s no longer here. And when he fell ill, he said he’d fight to stay alive so he could look after her and leave only when she’s gone.”

Mr Hong said: “But now, he’s gone - and the worst part is, his sister can’t even mourn for him because she does not realise it.”

And that, he added, is the real tragedy.

Three days after Mr Cheng died, his sister remains in the dark over his death. She continues to believe he has gone off to run an errand. A police spokesman said they received a call on Jan 23, and a Chinese man was found lying face up on the floor. He was pronounced dead by paramedics at 12 pm.

Yesterday morning, police officers and medical attendants were at the flat trying to move the woman to a hospital. But Mr Cheng’s sister refused to leave with them. She wanted to wait for her brother. It was only after coaxing that the woman finally relented and agreed to let them take her away.

It is believed that the woman has another two younger brothers and a sister. Said neighbour Hong: “When I called the younger sister earlier, she told me to mind my own business.” When he tried to explain that her sister was alone and helpless now, she cut him off and slammed down the phone.

$ingapore has very little social welfare despite the billions put in the hands of government companies. $ingapore’s ministers earn multi-million dollar salaries.

From wiki:
“Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet is a 1971 composition by Gavin Bryars. It is formed on a loop of an unknown tramp singing a brief stanza. Rich harmonies, comprising string and brass, are gradually overlaid over the stanza.”

It’s a very powerful composition with the homeless tramp quietly singing to himself as the strings and the rest of the orchestra provide a cushion and layers of comfort. Bryars is a known minimalist composer. Some music fans have said the effect is cleansing to the listener. Although the music itself is haunting, the message seems to be that you’re never alone. You can still hear yourself. Whether it’s someone you believe in or just faith in yourself, you can find peace, tranquility and grace. Shared by davidraphael.

Click on the highlighted track to download the MP3 (this is a high quality MP3 - sample rate of 192 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, this track has never been officially released on CD.

Due to the size of the file, please be very patient when downloading the track. It could be that the server was very busy. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the file.

Track 01. ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ (30 mins) (43.4MB)

Broadcast as part of the Minimal Weekend (Klara Festival) with composer Gavin Bryars conducting the Vlaams Radio Orkest.

On this 1993 version, Gavin Bryars gets Tom Waits to duet with the tramp and works on six different versions with an orchestra. Waits is on two of the versions. Click on the link to order the album.


  2. I had the original version of this and cannot agree that it is uplifting in any way - it is one of the most powerfully melancholic pieces I have ever heard [verging on profoundly depressing as it seems to reinforce the sense of solitude the ‘found’ material suggests… total abandonment and giving the insight into how we are all really alone in some sense].
    Having said that, it is a phenomenal piece of work and intensely moving - This version is somewhat mellower and, in some ways, more melodic making it more accessible. Terrific! Thank you immensely for sharing this.

    By METAMORPHO on Aug 10, 2013

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