Grammy-nominated hymn writers Keith and Kristy Getty are weaving the fabric of tradition and community into the Christmas season — and emphasizing the role singing plays in spiritual formation — with their annual “Sing! An Irish Christmas” tour.
Keith Getty, who with his wife is behind some of today’s best-loved hymns, including “In Christ Alone” and “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death,” told The Christian Post that the tour reflects the couple’s belief that hymns are integral in shaping a comprehensive understanding of faith and the human experience.
“The great carols of the faith, the great Christmas hymns of the faith, are probably among the best that were ever written, and there are lots of reasons for that,” Keith Getty told The Christian Post.
“Part of it is the rhythm of the Christmas season, and the sentimentality of it means we sing hymns over and over again, so we get to know them deeper … and that's something we should learn from for the rest of the year too. The great carols of the faith tell the story of redemption, but they also emphasize incarnation, Christ's life, His words, His vulnerability and His story. All of those things allow carols to bind into our humanity in a much more personal way. Especially in a culture that leans towards story and away from fact, even more so for our generation. It's a vital opportunity for churches to reach the next generation of children and those who are yet to believe as well.”
According to Getty, the tour's format — a blend of festive joy and solemn reverence — mirrors the duality of Christmas itself. The first half is a lively Irish celebration, while the second half offers a contemplative journey through the Christmas story with traditional lessons and carols.
“We learned in the American culture that Americans like to go out and celebrate Christmas and have a happy experience,” the Irish musician told CP. “So, what we created is just a genuine Irish party. The first half is 45 minutes; it's high energy, it's fun … it’s built around the great hymns of Christmas ... Then the second half is a 60-minute lesson through carols, where we read through the Christmas story and go through the nine lessons of the carols ... it's fun."
The Gettys four children also participate in their Christmas concerts, reflecting the couple’s commitment to encouraging families to sing together. This year’s tour will feature new songs from the Gettys along with traditional Christmas carols.
The tour starts on Dec. 2 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. On Dec. 9, it will be at Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage) and will feature special guests, including Pastor A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center; Malcolm Guite, a leading Christian poet; and Michael Keller, son of the late Tim Keller and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church–Lincoln Square. The multi-city tour runs through Dec. 19 and will also be at famous venues like Washington, D.C.’s Museum of the Bible.
According to Getty, the tour is an inclusive effort that collaborates with local choirs and leaders in each city, aiming to deepen the understanding and appreciation of hymns and their role in worship. He reflected on the broader appeal of hymns beyond the niche of church worship, noting their reach across various musical communities from classical to global genres.
“Across the whole musical world, hymns have tremendous favor among many communities, from classical to inspirational to bluegrass to global, that Christian music wouldn't have because the music touches different areas,” he said. “Hymns have a tremendous breadth of reach, from national coronations to other areas … modern worship would never be in that space.”
The idea for the Christmas tour, which has been featured to millions of households internationally on public television, the BBC and the Trinity Broadcasting Network, was conceived by the Gettys in 2001, shortly after they penned “In Christ Alone.”
The couple envisioned a future where hymns would play a key role in influencing culture in a significant way, much like their heroes, Martin Luther, Charles Wesley and John Newton. Getty emphasized their hymns' profound impact on society a generation after they were written, leading to widespread Christian conversion, church foundations and improved social condition.
“We thought, ‘What would the world look like in 2050 if our kids grew up singing songs that give people a big picture of the God of the Bible, help them understand what the Bible was all about, help them understand the whole spectrum of human emotion? What would it mean for their understanding of the Bible and themselves?” Getty said.
“We thought, let's for 50 years, create an organization that is focused primarily on giving people great hymns that help them understand the Lord, and then secondarily, let's do things with those songs.”
The “Sing! An Irish Christmas” show, which has played to some 40,000-50,000 people each year for the last five years, began with an album and an event featuring Billy Graham: “Everybody wanted a Christmas show; everybody who heard our music wanted to hear a Christmas event,” Getty recalled.
The program's success led to a partnership with PBS, making it a staple in Carnegie Hall's Christmas season and gaining a significant presence at the Kennedy Center and the Museum of the Bible, thus opening doors for people of all backgrounds to experience the power of hymns.
“It's just been an extraordinary opportunity that has opened doors for people, and so we're just so very excited about it,” Getty said.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com