singing with Chuck Neufeld

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012

25 years ago Chuck Neufeld did a concert at my high school, and blew me away, and got me thinking that maybe I could write songs that others could sing along to. I spent countless hours hitting “fast forward” and “re-wind” and wearing out cassette tapes (yes, those), learning to play many of his songs. In the next few years, Chuck Neufeld joined Bruce Cockburn as the two musicians that impacted me the most at that time, as I went to as many concerts as I could, and listened and learned as much as I could, from both of them.

Who would have guessed that a quarter century later I’d have a chance to do a series of concerts together with him? (with Chuck, that is… haven’t had a chance yet to perform with Bruce… GRIN…)

What an inspirational time it was – not just to play and sing with Chuck, but also to enjoy his and Bonnie’s hospitality, and to hear much wisdom from so many years of ministry-infused-with-music in so many intriguing ways. It was particularly amazing to me to see how, in his current role as “conference minister” in Illinois, the songs he has written (and continues to write) have so obviously been embraced and treasured by the community(ies) that he serves and gently leads.

Every concert was different, but in each one we had “solo” sets and then played some songs together. Although we sang different songs each time (and learned some of each other’s newer material), we began each joint set with “My Voice Alone” – an old Pete Seeger song that Chuck adapted (“One Man’s Hands,” by Pete Seeger and Alex Comfort), and that I recorded on my first solo CD. There’s quite a story (many stories, actually) behind that song as well, and its many adaptations (including how it almost had to be dropped from my CD, until I received a hand-written permission note from Pete Seeger himself, just in the nick of time). I may tell that story here sometime as well.

But, for now, suffice it to say that it was quite an experience to be able to sing together – and with that song in particular, I felt like I was singing with two of my biggest musical heroes and influences at the same time. Two people who are among the very best at expressing profound things in simple and powerful ways that young and old can sing together.

My voice alone can’t sing a song of peace

Your voice alone can’t sing a song of peace

But if two and two and fifty make a million

We’ll see this world come ’round

We’ll see this world come ’round