What better time than St. Patrick’s Day to hear from Keith Getty, a native of Northern Ireland and renowned writer of modern hymns such as “In Christ Alone,” “The Power of the Cross,” and “Speak, O Lord.” He and his wonderfully talented wife, Kristyn, will be leading corporate worship at The Gospel Coalition’s national conference, April 12 to 14 in downtown Chicago. Together with their Irish band, the Gettys will also perform a concert on the evening of Wednesday, April 13, at 9 p.m. in the Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place. To hear from the Gettys in a more intimate setting, you’ll want to sign up for their workshops. They’ll serve musicians and writers with a workshop on “Writing Corporate Worship Music” at 2 p.m.. on Wednesday. Then they’ll discuss “Leading Corporate Worship Music” for pastors and other local church leaders at 3:30 p.m. later that same afternoon.
I corresponded with Keith to learn more about some exciting changes at home, their future plans, and how they prepare to lead a conference of thousands in worshiping the Lord through song.
Congratulations are in order on the birth of Eliza Joy Getty, born on March 2! How is your family adjusting to this welcome addition to your Nashville home?
Thank you! We are enjoying this new chapter. We are getting less sleep and changing lots of diapers, but cherishing every minute.
You’ll be teaching a workshop at The Gospel Coalition’s national conference on leading corporate worship music. How do you select songs for the conference? Do you look for ways to augment the conference theme, “They Testify About Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament”?
When preparing for any worship service, our desire is for the songs we sing to be filled with the beauty of Christ and the the truths of his Word. We want the Word of Christ to dwell in people richly when they listen to it being preached as well as when they respond in song. Thematically, I ran each of my ideas past Don Carson and have also asked each of the speakers for their thoughts and preferences so I can work with those. We’re honored to take part in this conference. It’s a special privilege to prepare music that will strengthen leaders so that they can return to their congregations encouraged and equipped.
One temptation with a big conference and a great band is to try to perform more complex songs and arrangements. Yet while we always try to be artistically excellent with our music, we ultimately want to choose songs that will spiritually nourish local congregations of all shapes and sizes. We feel called to come alongside the church in this way. I also think it’s what makes our music unique.
You’re also leading a workshop on writing hymns and songs for the contemporary church. You’ll be touching on theological, lyrical, musical, and practical issues. So what is the most important thing for an aspiring modern hymn writer to remember?
I think it’s the same thing that any person involved in church music or leadership should remember. We want to create songs that exalt Christ, are rich in biblical content, and are singable. By singable I mean songs that are inspiring to sing. Good art—whether it’s displayed through preaching, writing, or composing—needs to be something of the highest quality. It should be colorful, invigorating, memorable, and life-giving.
What studio projects will occupy you through 2011 and 2012?
Our studio projects tend to evolve as collections of hymns that we write over time for the church. Additionally, last year we found ourselves writing new music about Christmas, Advent, and the Incarnation. This was due in part because we were expecting our first baby, and also because of our overall interest in music that focuses on these themes. I’ve always loved the tradition of singing Christmas carols. So many of these carols are inherently Celtic in style, and they also convey such wonderful truths through stories. The best of these carols beautifully model how the gospel story is told through singing. So in May we’ll begin recording our “Irish Christmas” project, which will features a number of musicians using Irish instruments and sounds. We’re excited about this unique forthcoming album! Also, now that we’re dividing our time between Ireland and Tennessee, we’re planning to combine the musicianship of our friends from both places to create a new collection of hymns that will follow our Christmas album. So that’s another project we’re eagerly anticipating.
After The Gospel Coalition’s national conference in Chicago, what does you touring schedule look like for the rest of 2011 and 2012?
We will be touring a bit less because of the changes taking place within our growing family, as well as our commitment to the need of fresh hymnody for churches around the world. We’ll tour for three weekends this spring to try out what it’s like to be on the road with a baby. Then we have a five-week tour in September and October, followed by 20 dates in December for our Christmas tour. The next year will follow a similar pattern, with the addition of a concert hall tour around the United Kingdom in June 2012.
As part of their second-annual St. Patrick’s sale, the Gettys are offering free downloads of three hymns—”Behold the Lamb (Communion Song),” “The Power of the Cross,” and “Come, People of the Risen King.” For a preview of what you’ll enjoy at TGC11, check out the new video of the Gettys performing “Come, People of the Risen King.”