The Blackbird Remix: Live, April 14

How can I offer something fresh, meaningful and compelling to a benefit concert to fight human trafficking? That was the question facing in preparation for an April 14 concert to end slavery. Here's an update on the project so far, as we prepare to see how God answers the question at the event this Sunday.

For a while I've been interested in the idea of delivering a spoken word piece in collaboration with a lone singer. This concert seemed like the perfect time to take the risk and step into this mixture of media. The idea was to have no instruments, just the spoken word accompanied by a solo voice. I was rewriting my poem, Apology to a Caged Bird, to bring a stronger focus on slavery, and I believed the concept could be stark and attention grabbing, if I could find the right voice and the right song.  

I've admired the voice and heart of Emily Neumann for over a year. And I hoped she would be the voice for this collaboration. Emily is one of many gifted worshipper/musicians that make up WorshipMob. The Mob is a collective of worship musicians from more than a dozen Colorado Springs churches. This group comes together weekly to pray and worship at the home of Sean and Larissa Mulholland. Sean records and mixes these sessions and tens-of-thousands of people around the world are worshipping to these songs and videos through YouTube and facebook. 

Emily prayed about it, and was excited to dive in. Now, to find the song. Our hopes were high, but the song had to be just the right fit. We needed a radio song that would draw lots of people in. We needed lyrics about birds or flight, to connect with the poem and the words needed to bring something to the conversation about slavery. 

When the Beatles' classic Blackbird came on radar, I knew we had found the lyric to answer the dialogue started by the poem. I launched in to the poem at our first rehearsal, and then Emily responded with the opening lines of Blackbird. I blinked away tears as her voice turned the song into a chilling lament for a child trapped in slavery. As we traded lines, it seemed that new threads of meanings were pulled from both the song and the poem as the two wove together to create an entirely new fabric. 

We loved the work so much that we asked Sean if we could come to his basement studio that same night to record it at his studio. Emily and I performed the mashup live in one take, while Sean and videographer Richard Seldomridge captured the results.

If you're in Colorado Springs, I hope you'll join us this Sunday, April 14 at TCA's north campus as we deliver the live debut of this poem as part of the concert to end slavery. You can check out details on the concert here: