Hymnalist Keith Getty Explains How St Patrick Inspired Confessio’s New Album

NOL is a “busy” but “most wonderful” time of year for world-renowned Northern Ireland hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.

With their four daughters and their group, the couple embarked on their Sing! An Irish Christmas Tour, performing at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Their festive special will also air to millions of people via the Trinity Broadcasting Network and BBC Two on December 19.

Along with party favorites, they’ll be singing their latest new single – Brightest and Best – which they released with Grammy-winning country music icon Ricky Skaggs.

Telling the story of Jesus coming as a baby, it mixes the timeless lyrics of 19th-century Anglican Bishop Reginald Heber’s seasonal song with the bluegrass style of Ricky Skaggs and the Celtic sounds of the Gettys.

The single is in the style of Gettys’ latest album Confessio – Irish American Roots, which features 13 songs filled with traditional Irish melodies and instruments, timeless hymns and brand new tracks.

“The whole album is basically a love letter to Northern Ireland,” says Keith, who came with his family last September to visit relatives and due to Covid restrictions has ended by staying 10 months.

Meanwhile, the musical duo had the chance to revisit the people, places, poetry and melodies that are part of their heritage and shared this with their daughters Eliza (10), Charlotte (7), Gracie (6 years old) and Tally (3 years old). ).

Bonding around a shared love of music and faith, Keith (46) married Kristyn (41), born in Glengormley (41). perform modern worship songs.

With all of their children born in the United States, they wanted to take this extended visit to explore the history and heritage of Ireland and its cultural ties to America.

Among their “adventures” was a visit to Amazing Grace Park in Buncrana and on the shores of Lough Swilly, where John Newton is believed to have written the lyrics to the great hymn Amazing Grace.

“My African American friend argues that this is an African pentatonic melody, rather than Scottish-Irish, so we thought it would be fun to merge the two traditions and have Kristyn record Amazing Grace with the soulful singer. Dana Masters. “

Recorded in Harry’s Shack restaurant in Portstewart, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, they were accompanied by Keith on keyboard and saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who played the instrumental on Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You.

American bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss was also a guest on Confessio – Irish American Roots, in a 20th anniversary recording of In Christ Alone.

Written with Stuart Townend, it is estimated to be sung 100 million times each year.

“In Christ Alone was almost like the start of a brand – I don’t mean the Getty brand – I mean writing modern hymns. It’s almost like a national anthem of Christianity,” says Keith, who is always surprised by its success.

“I was 25 and living in Lisburn when I wrote this and it changed my life.”

Far from being a wonder, Getty’s hymns are increasingly used in contemporary and mainstream circles, with 86 of their songs appearing in the 2000 Best Worship Songs by Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI).

They created the Getty Music label, along with a stable of other artists, and launched their popular annual Sing! Conference.

But Keith is very happy to create the Sing Hymnal in 2024.

“This is my magnum opus. It will include the great hymns of history as well as modern hymns”, he beams.

Looking back, their new album takes its title and inspiration from St Patrick.

“I was sitting in Ballycastle on a beautiful day looking at Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre and it struck me that Christianity has been in Ireland for 17 centuries, from the time Saint Patrick brought it with its Confessio, its beautiful creativity, its church plantation and music.

“We put Confessio on a tune called Farewell to Ballymoney. The Scots call the tune Courting is a Pleasure and the Americans call it Charming Molly. It’s the same music and perfectly illustrates this incredible connection we all have.

“Ireland sent many missionaries to the world and produced many great songwriters and hymns. The idea that Be Thou My Vision, one of the world’s most beloved hymns, was written on this island is so special. ”

While the Getty’s write music to “worship the Lord,” they know their music touches people on different levels.

“We want to write beautiful versions of hymns and help people understand Jesus better, whether they are Christians or not, and enjoy music by singing in a church or just listening in their homes.”

His most enthusiastic track from the album is Pass the Promise, written by his wife Kristyn and Nashville recording artist Sandra McCracken.

“The three of us had planned to do a three-hour writing session together. But when the babysitter hadn’t come, we decided to take turns looking after the children.

“I was the first one, but towards the end of the first hour, Sandra had to leave for a date she had forgotten. .

“But what excites me about Pass the Promise is that we spend so much time worrying about our children and praying for our children, but we don’t have a song to sing for them.”

The Getty kids are already showing signs of following in their parents’ footsteps, being involved in their concerts and Family Sings online and appearing on their new album, on Come Thou Almighty King.

“They go to singing lessons, Eliza plays guitar and piano, and Charlotte is a really good violinist. But they do it because they like it,” Keith adds.

As they plan to return to their Ballybogey home next summer for a vacation, the Gettys are hoping to return to SSE Arena in Belfast in 2023 with another Sing! Belfast Celebration.

:: Confessio – Irish American Roots is now available. To download Brightest and Best, visit https://va.lnk.to/brightestandbest. For more information, visit Gettymusic.com.


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