AN INTERVIEW WITH KEITH GETTY
Paul: Now that you have moved your American home to “Music City,” do you sense an increase in pressure to commercialize your music more?
Keith: Not really, no. I haven’t a strong interest in country, CCM, or pop music anyway. It has been a refreshing experience getting to know some of Nashville’s folk musicians; americana, bluegrass, and other ethnic folk players. Just this morning Stuart Townend said to me on Skype that my music seemed to have gone more American in it’s folk influences than Irish. So every artist is constantly learning and the influences I have had in Nashville have been very positive, but not in any way commercial.
Paul: You have indicated in your speaking and through your concert practices a clear commitment to choirs in helping to lead worship. Talk about why you have this commitment, and how you have seen choirs serve the churches’ worship in your experiences.
Keith: My love for choirs is on several levels. The first one is very personal – I have sung in choirs all my life and I love the sound – I love the harmony, I love the contribution they make to a room, and most especially how they can set a congregation up confidently to sing well. When the choir is used as a tool for leading congregations, I think it’s actually at it’s strongest in terms of local church usage. When it becomes a choir more interested in pure performance, I still think the sound is great but it is of less kingdom value.
Paul: (a follow up question) What would you say to Church Worship Music Leaders who face the struggle of enlisting and maintaining choir singers, especially from among the younger adults in their churches?
Keith: Its tough in these times for many reasons – many churches are small and at best not growing. Choral music is less preeminent in our society, from education to church to it’s place on the wider concert platform. Additionally people are much busier than they ever were. In the 50s, singing in choirs was a popular hobby in a relatively uncrowded marketplace. Today people probably have twenty times the option of what to do. I think above all of these things though, choirs have lost their sense of confidence and role in church life and so most people see it as less of a priority. There is an educational process at that level to be done, but I do think at the every day level striving for excellence and a fun sense of community is always huge. My most memorable choir moments were either getting to sing in great halls with great musicians or else just being with groups of people who enjoyed each other’s company, laughed and socialized together – singing became a means of friendship and fellowship.
Paul: Given that you co-write a lot with Stuart Townend, others, and of course, with Kristyn, are there specific theological and/or personal themes that you feel you tend to bring to the mix and those that each of your co-writers tend to bring? (and a follow-up – if so, what are those themes and do you have a sense of perhaps why?)
Keith: In terms of individual contributions, my only real lyrical contribution is at the broad level of concepts and ideas. Stuart and Kristyn have all the gifting when it comes to poetry. I think at a general level as a team, the contributions we’ve made have been more of breadth and depth than of specific soapboxes or subjects. We’ve tried to write widely about the character of God, about the human experience, and to cover as many concepts from the Christian calendar as possible. We’ve tried to write more deeply about the subjects knowing how important it is to how believers think.
Paul: What advice would you have for those Worship Music Leaders who have difficulties with philosophical, practical, stylistic, or even personal relationship issues with their Senior Pastor?
Keith: Gosh, that’s not an easy one. I think we all have to begin from a position of acknowledging that relationships are difficult. Even a simple relationship between two people is actually two sinful people trying to co-exist in a functional way with each other’s sins and failures. That’s why grace and grace expressed in healthy communication is so important. I do think weekly accountability and periodic goals help at a functional level to see above the immediate concerns, but ultimately if we don’t share common faith and pray together, it’s going to be an awful lot more difficult.
Paul: In your experience what are some factors that contribute to churches where congregational worship singing is robust, and what are contributing factors where congregational worship singing seem lethargic?
Keith: When I think of robust congregational singing, the first four or five churches that come to mind represent the whole spectrum of the scale; from churches that are acapella, to black gospel music, and from the smallest to the largest of fellowships. In other words, and this is important – congregational singing does not need megachurches nor does it need professional musicians. The most professional productions I have seen both in the contemporary American megachurch world as well as the British choral world have in fact had the most lethargic and almost uncomfortably bad congregational singing. What the robust churches all have in common is that between pastor and all musicians involved in leading the service, there is an excitement about singing top to bottom. It is modeled, it is preached, it is prayed for, it is prepared, and it is well set up – whatever the style of the church. When you think about it, 8 people in a room singing Amazing Grace with all their heart is as an exhilarating experience as I can imagine. That’s the great thing about congregational music – it’s for the people, God’s people, it’s our holy privilege.
Keith’s responses above reflect something of the thinking, reflection, and character of this modern hymnwriter who has something crucial to share with the Church and church leadership.
Those who live in proximity of Nashville , Tennessee will not want to miss the St. Patrick’s Day hymns concert and singalong with the Gettys at the famed Ryman Auditorium, March 17, at 7:00pm.Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Shared Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leader Relationships, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship