Heralded as modern hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty are known for writing and performing songs that transcend traditional church boundaries, uniting the voices of people all over the world. With music that is equally at home in urban strip-mall chapels and the ancient stonewalled Canterbury Cathedral and from Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium toLondon's Royal Albert Hall, they occupy a different space in the Christian music community. Some of the most significant of their songs to date find their first "live" recording in the couple's new release, Keith & Kristyn Getty Live at The Gospel Coalition.For info contact: 610-432-2200
"This is actually the first live album that we have ever made, 12 years into this," Keith says of the couple's joint career, which began in their native Northern Ireland. "It's not a 'Best Of,' but it contains many of the songs we've written from the year 2000 right up to this year." In the past decade, the Gettys, often with long-time co-writer, Stuart Townend, have delivered some of the most potent new anthems in the church repertoire including "In Christ Alone," "The Power of the Cross," "By Faith," and "Christ Is Risen,
He Is Risen Indeed."
Recorded live at The Gospel Coalition National Conference in Orlando, their new collection teems with the energy and passion Keith and Kristyn bring to congregational singing and is further buoyed by the excitement of the conference attendees as they lift up their voices. "We chose to include the ones that we have sensed, over time, have the greatest congregational response," says Kristyn of the songs on the album. "We also wanted to take this opportunity to put a couple of the newer songs on, including one just finished at the conference on the theme of missions called 'Lift High the Name of Jesus'."
"It's an unusual live album because there are so many men," Keith says, noting that the conference attendance was two-thirds men. The robust choir of male voices makes for an intriguing dynamic and rich harmonic blend alongside Kristyn's
more tender vocals.
Adds Kristyn, "The album also has a few of our favorite older hymns, such as 'Holy, Holy, Holy.' We pulled the accompaniment away so the congregation could sing a capella and in harmony through the four verses - what a mighty thunderous sound!
It was extraordinary."
Among the hymns included in the collection is "In Christ Alone," which has become one of the most popular hymns around the world. Written by Keith and Stuart Townend, the song was first released in 2001 and has since been recorded by more than 100 artists, as diverse as Alison Krauss, Owl City, Natalie Grant and Newsboys among many others. It has been within the top 15 CCLI songs in the US for several years and the No. 1 song for seven consecutive years on CCLI in the UK. "In many ways, 'In Christ Alone' exemplifies the goals we share as writers in that we were aiming for an easily-sung and easily-learned melody, whether or not accompanied by instruments, that carries lyrics of depth and theological richness," Keith says.
The couple has embraced their calling to provide the church with songs that are theologically substantive yet uplifting and easy to sing. "From the start, we've always written for the congregation as the artist," says Keith. "While I'm privileged to have a wife who is a beautiful singer as well as a beautiful person, for both of us our philosophy on worshipping and hymn writing is we write for the congregation. We try to write melodies that any congregation could pick up, and obviously because of our folk classical style, they can often be used in both contemporary churches and the traditional churches with organs and choirs."
Creating music for the church has been Keith's calling since childhood. "As I look at my life since I was 10-years-old, it seems this is the only thing that I could have ever really done," Keith shares. "When I was 25, I started writing for my church because it's the thing I was the most passionate about."
Both Belfast natives, Kristyn was introduced to Keith by her uncle. "Keith kindly agreed to let this young 18-year-old come by and talk about singing. At that point, I hadn't even thought about writing songs." "I remember that he took me out to dinner, and he was the first guy to ever take me out to dinner, so it was a big deal," Kristyn recalls with a smile, but says it was a while before they became a couple. "We didn't date for several years. It took us a while to figure that part out. He was working on a project and asked me if I could write lyrics. I had always been interested in poetry and writing in general but Keith was the one who untapped the song-writing world for me. We were still very much at the beginning, just dreaming, talking together about what we would do."
A few months after they were married, they were invited to become music ministers at a church in Geneva, Switzerland, where they remained for a year. "It was really a great year for us both personally and creatively," Keith says of 2005. "Hymns like 'O Church Arise' were written that year and we did a children's project too."
Feeling led into a new season, they moved to the United States and took up residence, first in Ohio (finding new friends in the church of their pastor friend, Alistair Begg), then on to Nashville a few years later, where they currently live. They've since released four acclaimed albums including In Christ Alone (2007), Awaken the Dawn (2009), Joy-An Irish Christmas (2011), and Hymns for the Christian Life, a 2012 collection produced by Charlie Peacock (and one track by Ed Cash) that musically explored the intersection between Irish music and American folk and bluegrass and featured friends Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, and Moya Brennon on as many songs.
On their new live album, the couple again worked with Ed Cash. "He's just fantastic with live albums," says Keith. "He came down to Florida and he helped encourage the congregation to really sing out. It was really fun to have him there."
Their new project captures the essence of what makes Keith & Kristyn Getty stand apart, to occupy that different space in church music. While some may point to the quality of Keith's musicianship and the crystalline beauty of Kristyn's vocals, it is the couple's deliberate focus on writing and leading congregations in singing songs that are musically memorable and easy to embrace and that hold enduring Scriptural truth which sets them apart.
"When people leave church, they don't go out singing the sermon; they go home humming and singing the songs," says Kristyn. "The songs we sing shape so much how we feel, how we think, what we pray and even how we talk to friends and approach our work. How you sing and what you sing on Sunday affects Monday and every other day of the week. As songwriters, it's a phenomenal opportunity to be a part of creating a feast of thought and imagination and beauty and challenge that can be a part of feeding the body all week long."