July 24, 2014

Review: Hymns for the Christian Life

Hymns for the Christian Life
by Keith and Kristyn Getty

* * *

Respected modern singer/songwriters and hymn composers Keith and Kristyn Getty have released another fine album of serious contemporary music in their characteristic Celtic style (along with some bluegrass tunes) for the church. It’s called “Hymns for the Christian Life,” and it deals with many different facets of life with Christ, including such themes as work, family, money, community and social action, in addition to songs covering traditional worship themes.

Best known for their modern hymn, “In Christ Alone,” which Keith penned with Stuart Townend, the Getty’s new album features a special 10th anniversary recording of this song, with Alison Krauss on vocals.

Here is the track list:

  1. Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed
  2. Oh, How Good It Is
  3. A Mother’s Prayer (featuring Moya Brennan)
  4. Simple Living (A Rich Young Man) (featuring Ricky Skaggs)
  5. Before You I Kneel (A Worker’s Prayer)
  6. The Village Reel
  7. The Perfect Wisdom of Our God
  8. Kyrie Eleison
  9. My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness
  10. In Christ Alone (featuring Alison Krauss)
  11. Nothing but the Blood
  12. Holy Spirit (with Gabriel’s Oboe)

Back in 2010, when Keith Getty led a workshop at the National Worship Leader’s Conference, David Neff edited and distilled ten thought-provoking ideas from Getty’s workshop comments on the craft of writing and leading music for worship:

  • The primary form we use is the story form.
  • It is important to look at things that are harrowing and that don’t necessarily make us feel happy.
  • We need lament. But if you want to write lament, remember that a successful lament resolves into acknowledging that God is God.
  • To write strong melodies remember that folk melody has to be passed on orally (aurally).
  • Use pastors and theologians as resources for your writing, keeping company with them.
  • Trinitarian worship safeguards us from so many problems our worship can get into: either an overly stern view of God or a casual view of God.
  • Martin Luther is one of ten people from history I would want to have coffee with. I have looked at a lot of Luther’s hymns and emulated him. First, Luther had a high view of redemption. He also believed we live our lives in the midst of spiritual warfare. Thirdly, he had a high view of the church and a high vision of the church.
  • The congregation is the choir and it is merely the privilege of those of us who are musically gifted to help them sing.
  • Lyrics and great writing are the same thing. Lyricism is poetry.
  • Everything I write can be sung by a congregation.

These are solid observations that are reflected on “Hymns for the Christian Life,” and which show why the Gettys’ music has such depth and usefulness for the church.

I highly recommend this new effort.

Here’s a wonderful song from the album, “Before You I Kneel (A Worker’s Prayer),” which quotes Bach’s Wauchet Auf, and which speaks of a subject dear to my heart — the doctrine of vocation.

Comments

  1. We have been singing their songs in our church for several years. The thing is, no one ever asks if they are hymns or choruses; we just sing them.

    DSY

  2. On a different thread of iMonk posts, I mentioned my surprise that no one had yet mentioned the Gettys and Stuart Townsend. Glad to see them get their own post. They’ve written some outstanding contemporary hymns, with wonderful melodies and rich lyrics.

  3. Good stuff! Have you guys checked out Rick Pino’s new album?

  4. This stuff sounds promising – I’ve heard of Townsend but never the Gettys – are they on the fringe of ccm worship & radio or have I missed them because I don’t listen to ccm worship or radio anymore?

    • If one were to compare them with others in mainstream music, I would say they would fall in the “Adult Contemporary” category within the Christian market. You would find stations like Moody Radio playing them alot.

    • They’re actually fairly well known. They have work in the CCLI top 25, and many other artists are beginning to cover their work. I currently use Mat Papa’s arrangement of “In Christ Alone,” and Bethany Dillon’s take on “Jesus Is Lord” is pretty killer. I don’t know about radio play, but I hope their approach to songwriting really starts a revolution. Keith seems very disciplined about honing his craft, and may be our most prolific lyricist since Wesley.

  5. “Before You I kneel and ask for Your goodness
    To cover the work of my hands.
    For patience and peace to shape all my labor,
    Your grace for thorns in my path.
    Flow within me like a living stream,
    Wear away the stones of pride and greed
    ‘Til Your ways are dwelling deep in me
    And a harvest of life is grown.”

    Wow!

  6. I can’t help but notice the music of African-American churches and Christian artists (and Hispanic churches and artists) does not seem to be worthy of mention.

    Is that further evidence that the “Worship Hour” remains segregated, or perhaps is more segregated than ever?

  7. I’m going to buy this stuff and give it to my church’s worship leader, a Celt, by the way, and hope that some of it sticks. I’m so tired of the usual choruses that I rarely sing anymore, and when your song is stilled how can there be true worship?.

  8. Interesting that they believe it takes a trinitarian approach to lyrics to avoid a casual view of God. Is focusing “In Christ Alone” too much of a soft approach? Isn’t Jesus is the exact representation of the Father’s nature (Hebrews 1:3)?

  9. I bought and downloaded the album, my first from this duo. Yes, there are some truly great songs, but what also surprised me when I listened to them back-to-back-to-back was how they all started to sound the same, almost formulaic. Perhaps the goals of strong melody, cadence, meter, etc. coupled with a celtic approach force a similar result time after time.
    Maybe the album format does not fit with these kinds of songs, and they are better heard and sung independently, as stand alone works.
    Or, maybe even hymns, like choruses, go through a winnowing process where the best ones from this album will stand the test of time, and the rest fade from memory.