"BROAD OAK: A Father's Legacy" (15th Anniversary)

It is 15 years this summer since the production of BROAD OAK: A Father’s Legacy, a 30 minute documentary on the life and work of Philip Henry, father of the acclaimed Bible commentator Matthew Henry.

The film was entered into the SAICFF in 2004 and its selection for a prize meant that all distribution rights immediately became the possession of Vision Forum, without any buy-out, prize money or subsidiary remuneration. This was not a fair deal.

Since the organisation is no longer in existence, I judge the contractual obligation to be over. And I am very pleased to share my little film, produced on a tiny budget at the age of 19, with the patient support of my Dad and my older brother. I am well aware that it did not deserve to win any prizes but the subject matter is worthy of a wider audience.

Of music

When I left university with a First Class music degree, I had endured many complications through rejecting the current course of Classical music. My total aversion to composition based on dissonance and discord meant that I was at odds with the current trends my love of harmony was deemed backward. I coped with this in the knowledge that “ordinary” people know better and I determined to write for them.

The time since my graduation is little more than a decade. Perhaps my perception was wrong then. Or perhaps things have changed rapidly. But the “ordinary” people cannot be relied on to preserve a more warm and pleasant taste in music. Time and time again, my scores are sent back for review because the production company’s client says my music is wrong. Sometimes this is a red herring - a client playing a mini power game, whereby it needs to find a fault before sign-off. But it is too common to be just that. The music is rejected if there are harmonic changes that develop over 8 bars, the music is rejected if there is a melody more than 4 notes, the music is rejected if it attempts to reinforce changes in the visuals, the music is rejected if there is not a continuous droning rhythm in the background. This is therefore not a matter of style but of musicality. In order to satisfy clients (who in turn are applying their musical judgment on behalf of their customers) the background music must attempt to say nothing. It should be a forceful sound, it should be confident, and it must be meaningless.

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This is beyond challenging for a composer - not because it is impossible to satisfy such a brief (banal though it is) but because to do so would mean setting aside all the skills of the composer. Just this week I received an invitation to trial a new software programme of an AI Composer’s Assistant. I would put in the parameters and the machine would “write” a track. Of course, there is no reason for any musical knowledge if that is all that is involved. And I am sure that the computer would write something with the appropriate treadmill effect to please the average listener today.

Once upon a time, the Salvation Army could stand outside a strip club and attract people by their harmony in song. Perhaps it was merely their propaganda, but they claimed some left the club because the music on the street was better. It requires no endorsement of the Army or the saving properties of music to observe that this could not happen now. People do not hear things in the same way. Where there is still appreciation for melodies and harmonies it is usually because the music has been known for a long time.

While this is a problem commercially, it does not affect the truth about music.

From my scribbling book

From my scribbling book

I have enjoyed setting and memorising as many metrical Psalms as possible in the last year. There is no better way to get the words into your head. And, having the words there, you can contemplate on them when your hands are busy and your mind is idle. The song is there to be sung. It is true. The melody helps you learn. With a few exceptions, I am composing new melodies for each Psalm to aid in memorisation. Then, when time permits, I scribble down a version in a blunting pencil.

As a Christian musician I do not want prizes, I do not want fame, I do not want praise. For the sake of bread and butter, it is necessary to display skill and to try to be paid. But these Psalms are what matter. My scribbling book could be lost and yet I would still know them. Wherever I am, I can praise the Lord in words He accepts. There is no higher purpose for a musician’s skill, nothing which makes us feel so inadequate to the task. And striving thus for his glory, the fickle whims of clients are seen in their true perspective.

Dead Saviours

While so much in British politics is on hold to avoid leaving Europe, the government are proceeding with plans to make all bodies the possession of the State. In a short time, we will be presumed to be organ donors unless we take the trouble to opt-out:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45056780

This has been the law in Wales for the last 3 years, so that those of us visiting Wales for the day have been in an ambiguous position: if there was a terrible road accident, would they check whether we were resident in Wales before taking our organs or after?

The opt-out is available (https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate/refuse-to-donate/refuse-donation-form/) but it is not fool proof. Before my brother had his tumour removed ten years ago, the consultant surgeon reassured my parents that he would under no circumstances remove his leg on the operating table; but before going under the anaesthetic, alone, my brother had to sign a disclaimer allowing the surgeon to do just that if he deemed it to be necessary. The tumour would not have been removed if he had not signed to allow them to take his leg as well. There is nothing to stop people being put over a barrel in the future, that if we do not agree to have our organs harvested at death then we will not be treated in life.

The BBC is not just complicit in this matter but aggressively so. Their propaganda is that those who donate organs save lives, they are saviours. We are told that by our death we can save other people and that such a selfless act will ease the mourning of our relatives, as though the dead continue to live, resurrected in someone else’s body.

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The media promote the idea that we are justified in our death if we leave our organs to others.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6685693/Father-28-died-brain-tumor-saved-lives-FIVE-donating-organs.html

No one asks why the young father in this article died of a brain tumour or the young lady above died of a brain haemorrhage. That aspect is ignored. What matters to the media is the metamorphosis of the dead into saviours so that we will all stop being squeamish about brutalising the dead.

We are not saviours. We are all going to die. And the media will not lift a finger to support the Church’s role in teaching people why they are here, what they must do to be saved, and what God requires them to do. That is taboo. Telling people that their bodies are owned by the State is not.

It is estimated by the propagandists that 700 lives will be “saved” every year by this change in the law. That same number are legally murdered every day in Britain under abortion legislation. Why do we trust the government to be acting in our best interest by claiming ownership of our organs, when in the case of the babe in the womb, it may commit murder and call it an act of compassion?

Composing when not under the influence

I read this article the other day by Katie Botkin:

https://medium.com/@katherineheline/why-the-devil-gets-all-the-good-music-dbe4335e7098

It purports to be looking at the deficiencies of Christian art, specifically music. She makes some obvious points, which tend to throw more rocks at a form of American Christianity than illuminate the matter of music with any depth.

Her main point is that Christians make poor art because they will only project a censored view of life, which lacks any authenticity with respect to the “human experience”, is cold and therefore bad art. She bases this on her own attempts to conform to this artificial and culturally-influenced standard in novel writing. She contrasts this with her brother’s song-writing which invokes more Buddhism than Christianity and is better art because it is “real”.

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How does your garden grow?

This hedge of conifers is 85 foot long and has been growing alongside my home for over 25 years.

On Monday, it will be felled.

The action is not voluntary. We are being compelled by the Council, who assert that the pavement is being obstructed. Although the conifers at either end grow out more than in the middle, it is not so obstructed that neighbours do not cycle down the path at speed. Two ladies walked arm in arm down the pavement the other day. Besides, no neighbour complained to us. We knew nothing until we were given an ultimatum.

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The Talented William Cowper

The Life of William Cowper paperback is now in stock once more in the Shop.

Something once written tends to fade in the memory. It mattered to us enormously at the time and while affection for the subject remains, the details often disappear.

But Cowper’s poems do not. He was adept at looking at the details of life and drawing a beautiful observation from the every day, so when we see the every day we find ourselves reflecting as he did.

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How to make music and still be a child

This still from my Music Mania promo is a real photo of girls in the town where I was born. They already wear the weary of look of children forced to practise beyond the point of pleasure or even patience. Most children who have undergone Classical music training will remember the day when they reached this same level of “dedication” to music. My Grandmother, an accomplished pianist, associated making music with a much loved teacher and so her effort was associated with happiness.

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No time left for sentiment

When Christianity is reduced to sentimentality, the Church neglects its duty to God. Surrendering to the world, apologising for what it believes, desperate to prove itself “kind”, the Church soon falls into decay.

Some will say that such an approach is merely love for our enemies. But consider what “love” means. It is seeking someone’s good in accordance with God’s laws. Therefore, if someone is promoting heresy and leading others on the road to perdition, we would seek their good by pointing out their errors, rather than allowing them to lead others into sin. So if we would love our enemies we will be busy and unpopular.

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Excerpts from "No Earthly Good?" by Abigail J. Fox

“Culture follows religion. We cannot mend the religion of others. We can only take care of our own. Once we understand our duties, we may provide an edifying influence on the Christians around us. Should this be true and growing, then such a Church will be a beautiful sight and will produce its own culture, a vineyard worth sampling. That culture could be replicated whenever God-fearing people populate a Christian Church. And should those people find themselves with authority over regions and even a nation, then the culture will reflect the religion by God’s appointment, and not by the shortcut taken by well-meaning but arrogant Christians.

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Wisdom Speaks

When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:

They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Proverbs 1.27-33

Idols and the perversion of Florence Nightingale

For over two years I have been researching and writing for a book about idols who are accepted as Christian (or accepted by Christians). The adoration of such idols makes them millstones around our neck. We are encouraged to act in imitation of them, to construe their behaviour as Christian, even though on closer inspection they disregarded most of God’s commands and set themselves up as saviours of mankind. By worshipping such men and women, we lead others into idolatry and far from their duty before God.

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A Sharpened Antithesis & the London Humanist Choir

Henry R. Van Til said that we are influenced by what we oppose and that is true. As Christians, we recognise error and distance ourselves from it. We try to be more consistent in the face of obvious inconsistency. However, we are not defined by the difference.

By contrast, the London Humanist Choir is a screaming example of people who are defined by their hate. They hate God. They hate the Lord Jesus Christ. And when the members of the choir gather, they sing in order to mock the Lord. That is their worship and their damnation.

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Truth, truth? What is truth?

I will not watch The Favourite. The BBC’s Breakfast show is promoting it as a comedy and has twice (to my knowledge) made Dan Walker - a professing Christian - the mouthpiece for the promotion.

The most obvious reason not to watch The Favourite would be the gratuitous decision to transform Queen Anne into a lesbian. It loses any approximation of being a historical work from this moment and becomes yet another excuse for pornographic voyeurism.

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Give us this day our daily bread

These words from the Lord’s Prayer have gained a special poignancy to me over the last year. As commercially produced bread is increasingly adulterated with soya flour (often modified), it has been more and more difficult to find any wholesome options to buy. I started to make it myself, as a supplement to the bread available, but over the Christmas holiday we have only had the bread I have made.

I remember one of my favourite Sunday books as a very little child was called “Thank you for my loaf of bread”. The little boy thanks his parents, who say that they only bought it; he thanks the baker who only baked it; he thanks the farmer … and so on, until he thanks the Lord for his loaf of bread. The attitude of gratitude is certainly the right one.

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The Alignment of Romanticism and Roman Catholicism

England apostatised through Romanticism. It was a suitable portal because it did not appear to be a religion. Most people did not even know the term - they just became obsessively interested in literature, art, music and architecture. Once their interest was captured, the English became very jealous over their right to enjoy the Arts. Ultimately, in 1870, they fought the clergy over the right of the people to have a concert in a cathedral rather than a sermon. The people won and there was no turning back.

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Why do we sing?

When we sing (rather than read) the Psalms, we hear the words differently. We proclaim rather than study and, unless we are dreadful hypocrites, the act of singing Psalms is a declaration of consent. There may be parts of the Psalms we do not understand as well as others and that should provoke us to further study, but it is still important to sing them all. We are not told only to sing the Psalms once we have reached a level of theological acumen. By contrast, the person who sings the hymns of men selects those which he feels to be most true, which accurately reflect his beliefs and experience. We are not given such autonomy with the Psalms. We sing the same songs as children, adults and in old age. We change - the Psalms do not.

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The Love of Christ, all the year round

‘Tis the season of make-believe and especially in the realm of Christmas letters. Through the door they come with the Christmas cards - letters fat with falsehood, exuding an air of superiority. It is the supercilious smile of English success as one by one, correspondents detail the perfection of their lives and cast an unwelcome shadow over already dark wintry days. It is not envy you feel at their happiness, but sheer disappointment that people you had thought of as friends have communicated nothing whatsoever of themselves. It is all externals and conformity, the sun ever shining on a catalogue of births and marriages, holidays and achievements. It produces the impression that anything real - from problems at work to sickness - would be construed as failure and so must not be shared.

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Modern Music vs. Good Music

I noted this week that one of my former professors in composition and orchestration died last spring. It was not unexpected, after suffering a stroke in 2013.

I met James Wishart on my first tour of the university and listened to a presentation he delivered on composition. On that occasion he had forgotten to bring a CD of his own music and so I had no opportunity of knowing his style, namely what he called good. I could not have guessed how ghastly his modernistic compositions sounded. Instead, I heard him speak of being a grand encourager to every young composer and I looked forward to his support in starting my own career.

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Answering Criticisms of my Review of Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts"

In December 2016, I received a lengthy comment on my review of “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I chose not to publish the comment at that time because to do so would have required a response. I was not sure how to approach the commenter and therefore put it aside. But I never forgot the comment's opening words:

Firstly, it's not a book of theology. 

My original review was written nearly 4 years ago and in that time I have given little thought to Ann Voskamp and her large number of followers. This week I revisited her website to see how things had changed. Less than one week ago and to coincide with Easter, she had published an excerpt from her new book. It started thus:

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Propaganda and the BBC's war against Christianity

If a nation is founded on Christian principles and consists of individuals bound by a confession and taught a creed, they are unlikely to be swayed by a story, a film or a piece of music that contravenes those standards. The English surrender to the Arts appeared as Christian belief declined. It has produced a society that is susceptible to be influenced through artistic channels, as expounded in Music Mania.

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