Keith Getty

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Irish composer Keith Getty, 2008

Julian Keith Getty (born 16 December 1974, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland) is a British, Northern Irish composer, best known for pioneering "modern hymns". Many of his songs are co-written with his wife, Kristyn Getty, and veteran British, English songwriter and worship leader Stuart Townend. The most widely used of the Getty-Townend hymns are "In Christ Alone", "The Power of the Cross", and "Speak, O Lord". Keith and Kristyn Getty are currently living in the United States where they write music and tour.

Modern Hymns[edit]

"In Christ Alone"[edit]

Main article: In Christ Alone

Keith Getty collaborates frequently with Stuart Townend, a songwriter that he met through his involvement with Kingsway Music.[1]

In 2001, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote the song "In Christ Alone" with the purpose of creating a modern hymn that would explain the life of Christ.[1] They released it on the Kingsway album New Irish Hymns, featuring vocalists Máire Brennan, Margaret Becker, and Joanne Hogg. The song gained popularity, and by 2005 it was named by a BBC Songs of Praise survey as the 9th best loved hymn of all time in the UK.[2] It hit number one on the United Kingdom CCLI charts by 2006 and, in January 2009, it was still number one in the UK, number two in Australia, number seven in Canada, and number 15 in the United States.[3] The CCLI chart released for the February 2011 biannual copy activity report showed the song at number 11.[4] "In Christ Alone" has been covered by many other Christian recording artists.

Other hymns[edit]

Since "In Christ Alone", many other hymns of theirs have been recorded in diverse styles including choral anthems, symphonic settings, Celtic bands, and live worship events by many artists. They frequently share their rationale for composing modern hymns at churches, colleges, universities, seminaries,[5] and Bible conferences, as well as through radio broadcasts and magazine articles.[6]

Their hymns, along with those written in collaboration with Kristyn Getty, cover many biblical and liturgical themes, including the Incarnation ("Joy Has Dawned"), the Crucifixion ("The Power of the Cross") the Resurrection ("See, What a Morning"), the Holy Spirit ("Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God"), Communion ("Behold the Lamb"), Benediction ("May the Peace of God"), and Missions ("Hear the Call of the Kingdom").

Philosophy of Getty/Townend Modern Hymns[edit]

Stuart Townend contends that current worship practices have often allowed the pendulum of expression to swing towards subjective experience and personal feeling about God. The Getty/Townend hymns attempt to redress that imbalance.[7]

Getty/Townend hymns also develop a particular poetic and musical style that unites people of diverse traditions and generations, choosing influences of folk and classical music as well as of contemporary songwriting and standard hymnody.

"There are two reasons we write modern hymns," explains Keith. "First, it's to help teach the faith. What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and ultimately how we live, so it's so important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us. The second reason is to try to create a more timeless musical style that every generation can sing, a style that relates to the past and the future."[7]

"In the Church, the purpose of singing is to express the community we have as the Body of Christ," his wife, Kristyn, adds. "To try to 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?"[8]

Musical background and work as orchestrator[edit]

Keith Getty began making music at age eleven, learning to play the classical guitar; the next year he turned his attention to the flute. His advanced studies in music were at Durham University (1992–1995), with special conducting opportunities at the Canford Summer School of Music (1994) and the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts (1995). He participated in a summer master class under Irish flutist Sir James Galway. Galway became intrigued with Getty's piano arrangements and "helped open the world of the music industry" for Keith.[8] In 1994, he formed the New Irish Choir and Orchestra[9] (now a part of New Irish Arts) and served as artistic director until 2004.

Keith Getty has developed great skill as an orchestrator, a practice that began when he was a teen. He once explained: "I started being involved in the praise times during youth group and evening services when I was mid-teens and really wanted to combine classical instruments with the band. We tried adding string quartet and then brass and wind for Christmas services. I always loved it and worked hard at it."[10] Getty has now orchestrated or produced music for more than 200 projects—recordings, concerts, theater, television, and film.[8] Diverse credits include orchestrations for Michael W. Smith's 2004 Healing Rain album, McDonalds television commercials, Silvascreen label movie soundtrack recordings (Music from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Once upon a Time: The Essential Ennio Morricone). He has orchestrated for Sir Cliff Richard and other gospel artists including Natalie Grant and Watermark. He wrote and produced the music for the 1998 C. S. Lewis International Centenary Celebrations. Getty has worked (with his wife, Kristyn Getty) with the African Children's Choir including two recording and touring projects (Still Walking in the Light and Devotion).[11]

Touring and concerts[edit]

In Christ Alone UK Tour, 2008

After several successful years of work in various aspects of the music entertainment industry, Keith has now focused on using his gifts for the church, writing hymns in a modern style. "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."[8] Getty has stated that when performing a concert, they will always finish with an old hymn.


See List of songs by Keith Getty




See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Keith Getty" (Artist Biography),, accessed 2004.
  2. ^ BBC Songs of Praise data; article no longer accessible
  3. ^ Previously reported data from
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b "The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Institute for Christian Worship Lectures". 
  8. ^ a b c d
  9. ^ New Irish Arts, "About Us,", accessed January 10, 2009
  10. ^ Interview for (no longer available); quoted in an article from Christian Marketplace, accessed January 10, 2009
  11. ^ Getty Orchestrations website, accessed January 2009

External links[edit]