Celtic Spotlight: Keith & Kristyn Getty

Turning Point Media Relations hosted a luncheon recently at Merchants Restaurant to introduce Keith & Kristyn Getty, Ireland’s premier modern hymn composers. Keith & Kristyn are on a mission to revive the art of hymnody for a new generation.
“In the Church, the purpose of singing is to express the community we have as the Body of Christ.” Kristyn says. “To try and search for the melodic ideas and song structure that might bring more people in, that’s what we’re trying to investigate. Is there a way to bring everyone together musically?”
The Gettys needn’t look further than their homeland for the answer. Throughout Europe, the their modern hymns have already taken hold, crossing musical genres and bridging generations beyond the Church’s traditional sphere of influence. The hymn most identified with the couple, “In Christ Alone,” penned by Keith and acclaimed British songwriter Stuart Townend (“How Deep The Father’s Love”), has been recorded more than 200 times—including arrangements by such top artists as Natalie Grant and the Newsboys—and is now one of the most popular Christian songs of all time in the United Kingdom.
The simple folk melody and storytelling lyrical style of “In Christ Alone” has given rise to its universal appeal, Keith & Kristyn believe. “My main conviction with melody is the same as that of Stravinsky, Bernstein, Gershwin, Burt Bacharach and The Beatles, which is looking at folk music melody in its simplest form,” Keith says. “The simplicity of the melody helps make it more accessible, and I believe melody is so fundamental to human culture and psyche.”
The song is also the fitting focal point and title-cut of Keith & Kristyn’s stateside debut. Produced by Keith, along with John Andrew Schreiner (Fernando Ortega, City On A Hill), In Christ Alone features the Gettys’ renditions of 11 of their most well-known hymns. From “The Power of the Cross,” another epic anthem in the United Kingdom, to the meditative prayer of illumination, “Speak, Oh Lord,” and the concert favorite, “Don’t Let Me Lose My Wonder,” the album is designed to offer an overview of the life of Christ via Keith & Kristyn’s pen and presentation.
Whether on a recording or leading worship with a congregation, Kristyn’s lilting, crystal-clear soprano is an ideal contrast to Keith’s richly melodic piano arrangements and accompaniment. An acclaimed soloist in her own right, Kristyn began singing in her family’s church in Northern Ireland—a congregation her father helped plant—as a teen. Today she is both an accomplished songwriter and artist, having penned children’s musicals and been featured with Christian music’s Margaret Becker and Celtic artist Joanne Hogg on the New Irish Hymns series, among her diverse credits. However, since her marriage to Keith two years ago, the plight and power of the modern hymn has won Kristyn’s heart too, and she’s equally dedicated to reviving the art alongside her husband.
A multi-talented instrumentalist and composer, Keith first learned to play guitar, but later became an understudy of renowned Irish flutist Sir James Galway. Ironically, it was Keith’s piano—not flute—arrangements that most intrigued Galway and helped open the world of the music industry to him. Keith has since orchestrated and arranged more than 200 projects for recordings, concerts, theater, television and film, including arrangements for Michael W. Smith’s 2004 Healing Rain album, as well as producing and composing (with Kristyn) various projects for the internationally renowned African Children’s Choir.
Though he was raised in a Christian home in Northern Ireland, it was ultimately a yearlong study of the life of Christ during his time at university that affirmed and crystallized Keith’s faith. Since then, he has carried a passion to communicate the basic tenets of Christianity through music in a universally appealing way. Now, after several years in various aspects of the entertainment industry, Keith has returned to his roots to use his gifts for the benefit of the Church.
“I was challenged by a pastor in Belfast to perhaps try and bring some of what the old hymns of the faith had brought to the Church through the centuries to the contemporary Church,” Keith remembers. “I didn’t set out to create the modern hymn. I wanted to write songs that contemporary, traditional and liturgical churches could all use.”
While conveying the message of the cross is at the heart of Keith & Kristyn’s ministry as modern-day hymn writers, they also place a high priority on being ambassadors for their music in the Church. The couple is in the midst of a two-year stay in the United States to introduce their songs in churches around the country, in hopes of leaving behind a repertoire of 21st century hymns that will be embraced for years to come. It’s not too far fetched to imagine that the roll call of the Church’s greatest writers will one day include the name Getty, as they carry forward the great standard of the hymn for the next generations.
Keith & Kristyn Getty Bring Modern Hymns to International Audiences
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