Home U.K UK's top hymn-writers hail global resurgence in Christian faith

UK's top hymn-writers hail global resurgence in Christian faith

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In normal times Keith and Kristyn Getty’s hymns are sung by millions of people in churches around the world and the pair regularly sell-out venues such as New York Carnegie Hall. This Easter marks the 20th anniversary of Songs of Praise favourite In Christ Alone, co-authored by Keith and fellow hymn-writer Stewart Townend. The contemporary classic, which featured in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s inauguration, is estimated to be sung by 100million people every year. The pandemic has forced a pause in their touring schedule and instead of spending most of the year in Nashville the duo and their four daughters have been based on the north coast of their native Northern Ireland.

The disruption of the pandemic inspired a new chapter in both music-making and family life. Their online “family hymn sings” have been watched millions of times and an album featuring songs to sing to children at the end of the day topped the Billboard kids’ chart in the US.

This comes on the heels of successful collaborations with the likes of country icons Alison Krauss and Vince Gill, and in 2017 Keith’s songwriting won the royal stamp of approval when he was awarded an OBE.  

Keith says he has no intention of raising up the equivalent of the Von Trapp family in Northern Ireland, but the sound of music fills their homestead.

“If they grew up on a farm they’d grow up to milk the cows,” he said. “Our family’s business is music so they learn music.”

Kristyn takes particular delight in watching their girls make music in this pandemic year.

She said: “When I hear them singing it encourages me… When we’re faced with unique worries and concerns and having to change plans constantly, hearing their little voices and the simplicity of that and the beauty of that… It steadies me.”

The pair believe that singing strengthens families and communities and see a key role for choirs in the 21st century.

Keith argues that if a country stops singing it “loses part of its heart and its soul”.

He said: “We’re all made to sing. It is good for us. It expresses joy, it releases emotion, and it builds community.”

The self-described “mad Liverpool fan” described seeing the power of communal singing when Jurgen Klopp’s team joined fans in singing You’ll Never Walk Alone after beating Barcelona in 2019 in “the most miraculous Champions League match ever”.

He said: “Those are spine-tingling moments because singing expresses something that [spoken] words simply can’t do. We don’t stand up and say our national anthem.”

As a young musician, Keith had concerns about the quality of modern songs sung in churches and set out to create great hymns.

He said: “I wanted to help create a canon of hymns for the world that actually articulate the Christian faith in a way that is deep… that is intellectual, that is Biblical – but also that is poetic, that is connected to every part of life and that is fully human.” 

His most important partnership is with Kristyn, whom he married in 2004. They arrange their lives so they do not spend a night apart, and their collaborations have won fans who pack venues as diverse as Washington DC’s John F Kennedy Centre and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

Describing the experience of making music as a husband and wife team, Kristyn said: “It’s a great privilege because it does tie us into one another even more…

“Very often if you’re a musician you’re pulled into an odd schedule or you’re travelling and it’s hard on relationships and family life. So early on we tried to build what we did so we might be able to do it together.”

They now nurture a new generation of songwriters through their Getty Music label, and they host a giant church music conference each year to encourage excellence in genres as diverse as rap and classical.

Many churches in Britain have dwindling congregations but Keith insists a very different story is unfolding in much of the world.

“There have never been as many Christians in the world as there are today and by 2032 most of Bible will be available in every language,” he said. “We live at a point of unprecedented Christian growth in the history of the world.”

Keith says they are working for a future in which people sing in “healthy homes and healthy churches” and experience a “much more profound and deep and joyful expression of art”.
The pandemic may have slowed down their schedule, but it has not put the Gettys on mute.



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