Singer-composer Keith Getty has several suggestions to improve church congregational singing.
One of them is, “Choose great songs,” said Getty, 39, from his home in Nashville, Tenn.
“Great songs sing well - just like in a restaurant, it’s better to have a small menu of great meals than a large menu of mediocre ones.”
Getty knows of what he speaks. Whatever the reason, many churches these days are choosing Getty-composed songs such as “Power of the Cross,” “By Faith” and his signature “In Christ Alone” for use in worship.
Writing music with his wife Kristyn and other collaborators, the Irish-born Getty is at the forefront of the “modern hymn” movement: songs which marry contemporary and traditional hymnody and feature Biblically-based lyrics.
A WEST MICHIGAN CONNECTION
The Gettys and their band (which includes several traditional Irish instruments) are touring the country, teaming with local choirs at each stop as they will Sunday evening April 27 at Grace Community Church in Hudsonville. Many of the songs they perform come from their most recent album, “Hymns for the Christian Life.”
Brian Felten, pastor of worship and fine arts at the Grace church, is leading a 70-voice choir that will accompany Getty & Band on numerous selections.
“We’re using our church adult choir, a choir from a Kalamazoo area church and several other voices as well,” he noted.
Felten has been rehearsing the local singers, preparing several of the Getty “standards” as well as other hymns.
“A lot of the younger people don’t know who (Getty) is,” said Felten. “But without him I don’t think there would be this whole era of songs with such rich content for congregational singing.”
He says those in the audience at the Sunday evening gathering should prepare to use their voices as well, as the emphasis will be on the joining of voices among the “congregation.”
The Gettys have seen their songs included in several contemporary hymnals. Keith Getty has no fewer than nine songs in the new “Lift Up Your Hearts” hymnbook published last year by the West Michigan-based Faith Alive Christian Resources.
“In Christ Alone,” although written well over a decade ago, remains in the top 15 songs most requested for use in churches, according to CCLI, a major Christian music licensing agency.
Getty will be hosting a “conversation” at 2 p.m. the afternoon of the concert in a separate event at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville. Felten said West Michigan church music-worship leaders, pastors, worship teams and church sound-video technicians are welcome.
“I’m sure he’ll talk about the importance of content in the songs that we sing, and he’ll probably be introducing some new music, too,” Felten added of the event co-sponsored by Grace Community and Parkway Electric.
“It’ll be great to rub shoulders with fellow worship leaders from around the area.”
Desserts and beverages will be served. There is no admission charge, but guests must pre-register at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/hymns-worship-and-the-christian-life-coffee-and-conversation-with-keith-getty-in-michigan-tickets-10323589133?aff=eorg
VARIATION ON HYMNS
The Gettys continue to champion the role of hymns, even when performing them with the flair of their native country. The couple split their time between Nashville and Northern Ireland, and has written several albums of specifically Irish tunes.
Meanwhile Keith Getty has several other suggestions for the improvement of church singing, which he says should be the first goal of church music leaders.
“The senior pastor has to care about it, and has to make it a central part of the discussion with the music director,” he noted.
“You need to get the entire music team to speak the language of congregational singing.”
That’s everybody from the young people who want to sing on “American Idol,” the older singer who wants to exert his/her own ideas, the “diva” in the choir, and even the drummer.
“The first question should be: how did my contribution help congregational singing?” Getty emphasized.
“Then other questions like how many songs you teach or how many new or old songs to balance it with will be dictated by common sense.”
A SWEET ENDING
The Gettys have two children: the youngest is their 3-month-old daughter Charlotte. The family travels together on concert tours (with the help of a nanny), making it a family affair with their fellow musicians and crew.
Their current tour band features both Irish and bluegrass musicians – a combination some have called “green-grass.”
Getty says they’ve received wonderful response to their “impromptu” post-concert jam sessions in the auditorium lobby. Fans can see and hear the artists and the music up close.
“There may even be some Irish dancing,” Getty mused. “Or if you people want to do your Dutch clogging, you can do that, too,” he smiled.
If You Go:
Keith & Kristyn Getty & Band with local choir present: “Hymns For the Christian Life”
7 p.m. Sunday April 27, Grace Community Church, 3500 New Holland St. Hudsonville.
Tickets: $15 general admission, available via www.itickets.com, 800-965-9324
For info call 616-669-6507 www.solagrace.org