Housing

Tate prepares for iconic 12-hour performance of Gavin Bryars' homeless anthem

The overnight event takes place tonight, where people with experience of homelessness will be singing and performing alongside Bryars and his ensemble

Tate Modern

Homeless people have been encouraged to attend the Tate Modern’s most accessible concert yet.

The free 12-hour concert will take place at the venue on London’s South Bank on April 12 at 8pm. The show will feature British composer Gavin Bryars’ 1975 piece Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.

People who have been affected by homelessness will perform alongside professional musicians from the chamber orchestra of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The Academy has been working with homeless people for roughly 20 years, but have never before orchestrated an event which involves those affected by homelessness so closely.

Producer of the show Charlotte O’Dair said: “We would love it if people who are or have been homeless come. We want them to feel encouraged and welcome.”

The un-ticketed concert will be the first of its kind, with a stress being placed on a relaxation of conventional concert etiquette. O’Dair added: “If people come along and wish to sleep, they can do that.” She encouraged attendees to “come for five minutes, or stay for 12 hours”.

The show is being produced in partnership with Streetwise Opera, Southbank Sinfonia, Tate Modern and the West London Mission. O’Dair said this was an opportunity for them to “look at the way they currently welcome homeless people, and what steps they could take to improve that”.

Bryars’ piece features a recording from 1971, which he captured while making a film about homelessness in the Elephant and Castle area in London. The recording consists of an unknown hymn, sang by an anonymous homeless man in the area. Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet was first performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, also on the South Bank, in December 1972, and recorded for Brian Eno‘s Obscure label in 1975. A 74-minute version was recorded in 1993, featuring Tom Waits, and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize that year.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra will perform the aptly-chosen piece in its longest-ever form, with up to 100 people performing throughout the night.

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