A new name on Britain's Christian music scene is JOHN & GILL BROOMHALL. Tony Cummings spoke to the duo with a timely album out.

John & Jill Broomhall
John & Jill Broomhall

A few years ago it was possible to tell within seconds of track one starting when a Christian music album had not emanated from Word, Kingsway and the other 'proper record companies'. Despite the inadequacy of UK Christian record companies' recording budgets, their pop-gospel albums sounded like Big Budget masterpieces when compared with the badly strummed exercises in ineptitude that seemed inevitably to accompany the phrase "privately distributed". But times have changed. That in part has been due to a heartening rise in creative standards at all levels from top American CCM stars to the humble evangelical youth club band. It's also partly due to the new midi technology and drum computers so that today a 'cheap' recording doesn't necessarily mean settling for percussion sounds which approximate someone hitting a biscuit tin. Finally, in part it's due to studios like Dave Pick's ffg (the letters stand for Free For Good) in Cheltenham. With ffg, 'private recordings' (otherwise known by the American terms 'custom tapes' and the wince-inducing 'vanity recording') have taken on a new dimension of quality, as the thousands who've bought the ffg-recorded albums of Keith Thompson and Eden Burning will testify. Now ffg launch a new ministry with their first CD-release, John And Gill Broomhall's 'The Time Is Right'. The album shows again that a Christian music album doesn't have to emanate from Word or Kingsway to be acceptable listening. In fact the bright, punchy soul-tinged pop gospel that flows from 'The Time Is Right' has more than a touch of hours-in- the-studio class that we take so much for granted when listening to those mega-budget American albums. The creative force behind 'The Time Is Right' is a 27 year old singer/composer and keyboards wizard John Broomhall.

"The album is very much a labour of love for me. I've done many, many recording sessions both for other artists and for things like the BBC. The songs on 'The Time Is Right' actually all come out of a very special time of spiritual renewal that Gill and experienced in our lives round about five years ago."

John was born in Croydon and grew up in Cheltenham and Gloucester. He'd made a commitment to Christ at age six but gradually the "peer pressures of going to college and the world of music" made him slip away. He got a songwriting and management contract but after six months it went badly wrong. His spiritual life turned somersaults in 1984 at a gospel concert at a Pentecostal Church. John was asked to put together a band and he found himself stage manager/keyboard player and accompanist to a fledgling singer, Gill Richards. Says John, "That concert was a turning point. I encountered Christians with a living faith. Something was crystallized for me that night. I sat in the dressing room and thought 'I can't be a nominal Christian anymore'. I believe I'd seen the Holy Spirit move that night and knew I had to follow Christ."

Within a year John had married Gill. Their engagement, in fact, made national television! John proposed to Gill in a song, "I'm Really In Love With You", made a tape of it and presented it to his beloved. The story got picked up by the media and his musical declaration of love almost made it onto record. For that, the duo had to wait for the release of 'The Time Is Right'.

Although extremely overt in it's lyrical themes, with titles like "Hosanna", "Praise You, Glory To You" and "Where The Spirit Of The Lord Is", the duo's style is far from standard MOR praise. "My tastes have always been towards jazz and the funkier end of music," explains John. "So quite a bit of soul music came through in the arrangements." Gill too, has found a lot of influences from soul and though her sweet, light voice is a long way from a black church hollerer, it sounds right on the percussive up tempo numbers as well as the softer ballads. She says, "Until that day I sang with John I'd never sung on stage before. There were 1,500 people there! It was a bit of a baptism by fire to say the least. But people liked the sound of my voice and after that John and I sang regularly together."

Gill is no slouch when it comes to songwriting either. She's composed a number of the songs on 'The Time Is Right' and is currently working on a children's musical. But it is 'The Time Is Right' which is now taking up much of the duo's attention. "It really is the fulfilment of a dream to get our album out," says John. "We've got a number of big concerts in the months ahead. We're not sure exactly where God is leading us in the future. We're just happy to be led." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.