Jovie had cancer, and she’d chosen to spend a day with Rend Collective. It’s not the most common Make-A-Wish pick, but for Christian kids who are fond of stringed instruments and fun accents, it’s a dream.
Celebration is the Northern Irish folk band’s reason for being. It delights crowds with giant panda heads and eclectic sounds like the incomparable Jingling Johnny; teaches people the shoulder-locking, jumping-from-side-to-side art of shindiggery; and its shows might just be single-handedly keeping the confetti business afloat. Rend Collective’s gospel anthems are well-crafted, the worship is heartfelt, and the group is relentlessly joyful. There’s nothing else quite like it in Christian music.
As the band’s lead singer, Chris Llewellyn, performed that night in October 2016, he could see Jovie dancing with her sister near the stage. They were having a ball. But when his attention turned to Jovie’s parents, they looked hollowed out. He recognized the songs he was singing—songs of joy, good news, victory, and freedom—didn’t meet the moment.
He was at the piano as soon as the concert was over, working on what would become “Weep With Me,” a worship song he hoped would ring true at the hospital bed and the graveside. It was an early turning point for the depth of Llewellyn’s music.