Last week, I posted a guest article from Keith Getty entitled “5 Reasons We Should Sing Passionately and Loudly in Church.” It quickly became the most read post of the year. This week, as Keith and Kristyn Getty are now out on their Joy: An Irish Christmas Tour, I asked Keith to check in with us and answer six questions. I think you’ll enjoy his answers. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a video and some more information about their Christmas tour… which you must absolutely attend. You can check out some of the music you’ll hear on the tour by checking out the Getty’s YouTube channel.
Philip: As you begin the Joy: An Irish Christmas Tour, what is the central message you hope people will gain from listening to and participating in the concert?
Keith: We hope each person gets a fresh reminder of the good news – the “joy” that is the incredible story of Christmas. The concert is essentially a village festival in the first half and a village carol service in the second half, and so both takes us through every emotion in the 1st half and the whole story in the 2nd half.
As Irish music generally does, it enjoys the rollercoaster of high-octane instrumental and dance music, with slow songs that allow us to breathe and consider the deepest emotions of the human heart that the Christmas story elucidates.
This year, you are partnering with PBS to air Joy: An Irish Christmas. What were some of the unexpected surprises about how it all happened?
The whole thing was quite surprising. We were involved in a program as guests with them last year, which began the conversation. After an experimental camera shoot of the Tennessean Theatre in Knoxville, last December, they decided to make it an option on PBS this Christmas. And it just has taken off. The viewing audience for this year’s show is over 30 million.
It is an amazing idea that your music will extend the message of Christ to so many through PBS. I know that each year, you and Kristyn write a new song for the tour. Tell us about this year’s new song.
There are probably 3 different new songs this year. The new carol we have written is actually a somewhat surprising co-write with Chris Tomlin, and our friend Ross Holmes (previous fiddler for Mumford & Sons). We came up with what we consider a classical melody, which Chris modified and worked on with Kristyn, focusing around Zechariah’s song, which ties into prophecy. I think it will be a popular congregational song next year, especially as it works well with O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
The second new song is a slow song Kristyn wrote for our girls, called Consider the Stars.
And the third is a reworking of Frank Houghton’s stunning hymn on incarnation Thou Who Was Rich Beyond All Splendor.
Recently, I heard you speak about your concern for the persecuted church throughout the world. What is it about the Advent season that should heighten our awareness of the plight for our fellow Christians?
There are a number of reasons for us to take stock of their persecution. Firstly, the Christmas story is birthed out of a time of genocide, of extreme nature. Arguably as dangerous a time as has ever been, with the attempts there were to kill Jesus as a baby. To not understand the story coming out of this is to create a somewhat insincere context for the Christmas story.
Secondly, it is important at each Christmas for Christians in the West to recognize that many of our brothers and sisters around the world are living in fear for their lives, just for the privilege of knowing Christ. Whether for financial reasons, for our focus on family, or just the general atmosphere of considering the least among us, we should not lose sight of them.
Thirdly, if we want to be kingdom citizens who have a relevant voice in the culture we are living in today, we cannot, with integrity, put our heads in the sand. Whether it is the “persecution” of Paris or Brussels, or whether it is the direct persecution in Turkey and Iraq, China and Charleston – it has been a horrifying year for some of them.
Fourthly, the reason we give it special mention, is because it is the 150th anniversary of OMF. The stories of Houghton’s two great hymns Facing a Task Unfinished and Thou Who Was Rich Beyond All Splendor are both challenging in their rawness, and yet inspiring to think of how John and Betty Stam, such brilliant students with immense potential, gave their lives in their mid-20s. And even thinking about Facing a Task Unfinished, or the blood of the martyrs in China, has led to the greatest religious growth in the world – some estimate as many as 100 million Chinese believers in the last century.
What song are you looking forward to leading and singing most during the Joy tour?
I think the three new ones previously mentioned. I think for all of us who are creative preachers, writers, composers, performers, businessmen, parents – we should be most excited about the current “things” we are involved in. John Lennox always advised me to ensure my music was constantly growing and my faith faster than that. While I have seldom achieved that, it is a huge challenge to each of us to constantly be growing into the gifts, and supremely the gift, that God has given us.
Having been to a few of your concerts, I think titling the Christmas tour as “Joy” is appropriate. You, Kristyn, and the band always have so much fun while performing for the audience or leading them in worship songs. What do you do to continually grow in your enthusiasm for our faith?
Tim Keller recently spoke at Movement Day in NYC and said the only significant thing he would do differently if he had to live life again, would be to pray more. And in fact, to be a Christian leader and not have prayer in the center of your life, is the definition of hypocrisy. By that measurement, I am an utterly inadequate Christian leader, but at least I’m reminded that that’s where it must begin. The older I get (and this is the 40 year old in me coming out), the more I am drawn to the basics of prayer, singing, studying God’s Word, and fellowshipping with truly life-giving believers. But I am also reminded, that it is both duty and delight, and so that’s why, whether the creativity of our hands, or the ultimate creativity of human life, each of us needs to be inspired to have our imaginations stretched and to be able to delight in God and everything He has given us.
Thanks, Keith. It is always great to hear from you and I can’t wait to see the Christmas tour.