NI hymn writers set to begin biggest tour yet

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Ahead of their first-ever global arena tour which kicks off in Belfast tonight, Keith and Kristyn Getty revealed they still get a tingle when they hear people singing their hymns.

The world-renowned hymn writers who divide their time between Northern Ireland and Nashville were speaking to the News Letter yesterday afternoon.

Keith Getty at Belfast City Hall.' PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Keith Getty at Belfast City Hall.' PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

The Gettys are home in the Province for their now-annual Getty Music Worship Conference in Assembly Buildings which took place last night and again this morning as well as tonight’s sold-out concert in the SSE Arena.

Keith said: “It’s always good to be back home. We spend nine months of the year in Nashville and three months on the north coast. There’s nowhere as beautiful on earth.”

His wife Kristyn added: “We have four little girls, eight and under, so it’s great for them to spend some quality time with grandparents and cousins and friends and church folk that we know here. We try to come home over the summer for an extended time when school is off. We try to reduce the number of times in the year we might have to deal with jetlag.”

Keith said it still makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end when hearing people sing one of the Getty’s hymns: “It’s very special for us. I’ve been at funeral services and heard them sung, I’ve been at bedsides where I’ve heard them sung.

“It’s inspiring in different ways – that’s why we write hymns, for people to sing, whether it’s a melody that thousands of people can sing in an arena or for 20 people to sing in the wee Presbyterian Church around the corner.”

Looking ahead to tonight’s SSE Arena show Kristyn said: “I’ve got butterflies in my tummy. It’s excitement more than nerves.

“Three of our four girls will be there. The baby will be in bed.”

Keith said: “There is something special about [tonight]. It’s our first arena tour and it’s our home show, it’s always more important than any others.”

Of the bond between Northern Ireland and Nashville, Keith said: “Since I moved to Nashville I’ve become very much more conscious of my Northern Ireland identity. Nashville loves the Irish and Irish people love Nashville.

“They share a common love of music – country music and bluegrass and Americana which are the sounds of Nashville all find their origin in Irish music. There’s also a theological and Christian heritage in common.”

Talking about their faith, Kristyn said: “In Nashville we go to a church called the Village Chapel. We’ve got to know the pastor and his wife, it’s a fantastic place, a great support to us.

“They would sing our hymns in the church. They’re very good at trying out the new ones to see if they work.

“When we’re home we go to different churches around the north Coast. The great thing about singing hymns is we can enjoy so many different denominations.”

Asked if it was possible write a better hymn than Thine Be The Glory (one of this reporters’ favourites), Keith said: “I don’t know how you top that. The melody was written by Handel from an oratorio named Judas Maccabaeus.

“I don’t ever consider myself in Handel’s league, but I suppose I can identify with finding it hard to top something.

“Our first song (In Christ Alone) became so popular that we’ve never been able to top it. I’ve been trying for 18 years now.”