It’s All About Reaching Out
An Interview with Bro. Tim Harford-Brown of The Flying Scrolls.
In the following conversation, recorded on December 29th, 2021, Tim Harford-Brown (Rugby, United Kingdom) and Levi Myers (Cambridge, Ontario) discuss the power of music as a form of community outreach and in-reach. Bro. Tim also shares his past and current musical projects from The Flying Scrolls, a Christadelphian music group, and reveals personal insights into the process of writing original music and recording songs professionally.
The full interview is featured in the March 2022 episode of the Good Christadelphian Music podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts.
Levi: Today, I’m super excited to have with me Tim Harford-Brown. He’s a member of the band, The Flying Scrolls. Tim, why don’t we just start with a background on what you’re doing with music in the Christadelphian world.
Tim: Well, first and foremost, the group, from its very inception, was all about preaching the Word of God through music. It originally started with Sis. Yve Smithers, who is now my wife. She initially wanted to go out onto the streets of Handsworth, in Birmingham, and perform little drama sketches, and then do music and Bible readings. Basically, encouraging people to either come along to a Sunday meeting or to take a leaflet or a flyer, or just listen to the reading, but basically to preach the gospel. So that’s really how the group started.
Levi: That’s fascinating. It’s definitely a different way for a band to come together as a group! And I love that you’re doing it with your wife. That’s super special.
Tim: Yeah! So then Yve’s sister joined the group as well—she’s a singer. Then her boyfriend (they’re now husband and wife as well), who until very recently were in the band too. Yve’s parents were in the group as well. From about 2004, we went out onto the streets pretty much every month, weather permitting, and we played in some pretty amazing weather conditions—In the UK But we get all sorts of weather here—hurricanes, rain and sunshine— especially a lot of rain!
We were doing this outside every month. We came up with the name, Street Reach. One time we did a Street Reach, in Torquay, which is where I’m from, in Devon, and it was so hot. I had a couple of cymbals on the drum kit because I’m a drummer. With the sun it was like sitting in front of a mirror basically. I actually caught sunstroke that weekend!
But other times it was raining, wild weather. We played all sorts of weather conditions and we got really sort of hardened to it. We very much encouraged people to come and join us from the ecclesia that was nearest to us, wherever we were doing it, and they would. We would always find a café afterward and have something to eat or just a cup of tea or coffee, so it was a fellowship experience as well.
Levi: Street Reach, you called it? That’s a cool name, I like that.
Tim: It was all about reaching out, that’s the idea. From then, both sets of people in the band got married, and we started having children, and that kind of changed the dynamic of the band. As we were going along, we thought, wouldn’t it be great to reach more people if we could? So, we decided to make some recordings.
it’s a really potent and powerful way of preaching
There was an abandoned project that I had in the back of my mind, which was started in the late eighties/ early nineties with some friends of mine down in Devon, on the story of Job. They’d written about seven or eight songs about Job. The idea was like a rock opera, with a story. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but they’d only tackled half the story of Job. For one reason or another, they didn’t finish it off. I got their permission to carry on and along with my brother-in-law, we wrote the remainder of the songs needed.
So, we had fourteen songs in the end. That became our first recording, and we called it “Job: From Dust to Diamond.” We had the entire book of Job, forty-two chapters, in these fourteen songs. That was our first record. It took us a long time to make, about three and a half years.
Levi: Tell me more about the recording process. Did you have equipment of your own? Did you have to go to an actual studio?
Tim: Well, we did a bit of both. Basically, the best way we found was when we got MacBook Pros (a bit of a plug there!), we got a digital interface and just bought some really good microphones and recorded it ourselves. Then right at the very end, after we mixed it, we went into a professional recording studio for six days and we got a guy to master it for us. So that’s like polishing a car. You’ve washed it and you’ve cleaned it, and then the final bit is to polish the car. That’s basically what mastering is. It kind of polishes everything, giving it a professional sound.
Levi: It’s kind of the process of making it sound the best on any speaker you listen to, right?
Tim: Right. As well, because we did it professionally, each song had a code. So, when we put it onto streaming services, it meant that it’s registered as us. It’s a good way of doing it, really. After we did Job, we did another record called “3:16.” I think there’s forty-six “3:16s” in the Bible, and we managed to get forty-two of them into sixteen songs. We kind of put them into groups. That took a bit more than two years to record.
Levi: That’s an interesting concept. It certainly does take a lot of time, effort and work, but it’s well worth it.
Tim: It is well worth it. When we started doing Street Reach, we wanted it to be a preaching project and it still is. We realized that music is such a powerful thing and obviously it’s from God. And we realized that you can really get a message across in a very short and succinct way in a song. More than you could in a lecture, you can get very complex things across in a song.
So, for example, on the 3:16 album, we’ve got a song called “Love Manifest.” We’ve got John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” in that song. In this three to four minutes of the song, you’ve got the entire concept of God’s love. We just found it’s a really potent and powerful way of preaching. It’s something, as Christadelphians, that we should embrace a bit more, I think.
Levi: I think that’s really important because there are a lot of people out there who learn in different ways, and who will respond differently to music than others. Music can be extremely powerful and moving for many people. Like you say, as Christadelphians, in the past, there’ve been a lot of piano-only songs, or the green hymn book by itself, which I think is very good and has its place. But I also think there’s room for a variety of different styles and arrangements, just always incorporating those amazing lyrics that can teach and uplift and praise.
Tim: Yeah. Obviously when you write a song or when you record something, you never know the impact it’s going to have. There’s a song on the Job album called “My Redeemer Lives”, which is all about Job’s faith and about his belief in the resurrection from the dead, which is a cornerstone of our faith, isn’t it? I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I want to have that played at my funeral, I really love this song. It’s very powerful.” Again, it’s a four-and-a-half minute song, and you never know the impact it’s going to have. Yes, it’s hard work and it’s really difficult to write original material that doesn’t sound like anybody else, but if you can do it, it can have a really amazing effect.
Levi: I really like the concept of preaching and just kind of finding that different avenue. Because preaching, so often, I think, in the Christadelphian community, has just been inviting people to a lecture, or a seminar that we’re putting on. I think it really opens the door for a whole different vein of people, where something like music really appeals to certain individuals more than sitting in an hour-long class. You can build a connection through people with the music, and that can become a conversation that they have, where they still are able to have Scriptural discussions. The music can be that initial pull, something which might interest them.
Tim: That’s true. It’s been really important for the people involved in the group that fundamentally the lyrics are straight out of the Bible. I’d say probably 90% of our songs are direct quotes from the Bible. That’s something that is massively important to us because there are a lot of Christian groups out there that have written some great tracks, some very catchy songs. But there’s a lot of stuff out there that hasn’t really got much spiritual depth to it. So that was important, as we’re a Bible-based community, to have the Bible as the focus of what we’re all about. That’s what we’ve tried very hard to incorporate into our music.
Levi: Please tell me about one of the favorite songs that you have written or done, that you’ve been involved with.
Tim: “My Redeemer Lives” is one I’m pretty pleased with. I wrote it when I was working in a factory. When I first moved to Birmingham, I worked in a factory that was making car parts for Audi sports cars. There was this steam hammer that was for hammering the parts out, and the song just came to me while I was working. The lyrics to the chorus is,
“My Redeemer lives, I will see His face, me and not another, He will give me a place, a place in his Kingdom, a place here on Earth, although I’m dead, he’ll raise me, born to a second birth.”
I’d been reading a lot about Job at the time and that whole chorus almost came to me, but this was before we had audio devices on phones. I didn’t have a recording device on my phone, so I quickly had to get a phone and ring up my answering machine at home, so I wouldn’t forget it. When I got home, it was there on the answering machine, and then I could kind of work the chords out! That’s basically how a lot of my songs go. Many of my songs come to me that way when I’ve been thinking about a passage in the Bible and doing something else.
Levi: You mentioned some upcoming projects, what’s next for you guys?
Tim: We are working on new material, and we are going to start recording some new songs this year, God-willing, we hope to have a new album out this time next year. It’s not a themed album as such, it’s a collection of songs. It seems that a lot of the songs are about the Kingdom, or about needing the Kingdom. It wasn’t planned that way; it’s just how it seems to have gone. All the members that are going to be recording on the record have actually written songs for this album, so that’s really nice that everyone’s involved in the writing. There’s also an album that’s in the pipeline about the Song of Songs. We’ve got about fifteen songs that are written, ready to go.
Levi: Well, this has been so encouraging for me, and I think for a lot of other people, to hear of brothers and sisters out there who are really trying to use music as a tool for preaching and for these exciting and uplifting kinds of things. Music can be something that’s controversial for people, but it really should unite us and excite us and help us to be a tool that we can use for both building our faith and for building the faith of those around us. Thank you so much for sharing all of this.
To listen and learn more about the band, Search: “The Flying Scrolls” on Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube. Also, please visit the band webpage: theflyingscrolls.co.uk, where albums can be previewed and purchased as digital downloads. Bro. Tim Harford-Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. We thank him again for taking the time to share his experiences and thoughts!
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA