A concert that features banjos, violins, drums, harps, and Celtic dancers is bound to be entertaining, and the musicians who fill the stage hope that it’s also inspiring.
The world-renowned show “Sing! An Irish Christmas” is coming to Fort Wayne’s Embassy Theatre on Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
The artists behind it all are Keith and Kristyn Getty. The Gettys, originally from Ireland, are known for combining their tremendous talent with their unabashed faith. As a result, their unique songwriting and elaborate performances tell a vivid story that they’ve been able to share around the globe.
Music with a mission
They say it began in 2010 when they became involved in a Christmas production with the Rev. Billy Graham. That morphed into an album which morphed into a concert tour that ended up in prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
“I remember 3 or 4 years ago when the show was at its peak on national public television, and it was playing Carnegie and Kennedy, and I remember thinking that this is strange,” Keith recalled. “We’ve got this show playing mainstream concert halls, playing mainstream television and we’re singing religious hymns. And I read some statistic that only one of America’s 30 most-loved Christmas carols is religious. America apparently prefers Frosty and Santa and Rudolph. I think that made me doubly determined to keep it going because the great Christmas carols and hymns really help us understand Jesus in such a beautiful and irresistible way.”
Their high-energy shows are spectacular in the sense that they fuse traditional and modern music seamlessly and lean on Celtic, Bluegrass, and Americana influences to put together songs that are both timeless and timely.
“Music is such an important part of Christmas because it’s as old as Christmas itself,” Keith said. “The Christmas story is God making announcements, God saying something, and then people responding with songs. Mary’s song. Zachariah’s song. That’s what it actually is to be human.
“We sing as part of our response as Christians. Twenty percent of the Bible, the Holy Scripture, is just songs, and so singing is just so important to the Christian life. That’s why I think singing about the incredible good news of Christ with these extraordinary works is so wonderful.”
When he’s not on stage, Keith addresses smaller audiences to share the importance of entire congregations coming together in song, and not just during the holidays. He’ll spread that message at a luncheon at Sweetwater on the day of the concert.
Under the bright lights, though, he’s right at home with his wife at his side. For them, it’s a melodic ministry.
“We’ve been making music together since the first day we met. I realized the only way I was going to get a date with a girl that beautiful was if I could find some musical collaborations, so I said, ‘Let’s write songs together.’ By the end of the first day, I said, ‘We’re going to have to arrange to go to your studio to record these,’” Keith laughed. “So I paid for all the studio time just so I could keep hanging out with her.”
In addition to the army of instrumentalists and vocalists who travel with the Gettys, they also have four daughters under the age of seven who are on the road with them. There are challenges to having the whole brood on tour, but Keith wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t mean to be cheesy, but it is mostly joy. Because we work together, we’re able to do life together,” Keith said. “We’ve been married over 14 years and we’ve never had a night apart. She is the joy of my life on this earth. I’m so grateful for that. She makes me smarter. And we have these four beautiful girls with us, so it’s really special.”
The 8th annual “Sing! An Irish Christmas” kicked off on Nov. 28 in Atlanta and wraps up on Dec. 21 in Nashville. With 17 shows during that stretch, they’ll have little downtime, but are energized by the audiences that are making lifelong memories at their concerts.
“It’s just a great night. The band is made up of world-class musicians,” Keith said. “The first half celebrates the great hymns of Christmas with high-energy music, dance, performance. It’s electric. They’re brilliant. The caroling tradition in Ireland began with dancing and playing instruments and then sharing them with the villagers. That was the time of year that we tell the story. That was the origin, so the first half of the show is very much built on that. The second half of the show is the more recent celebration of carols.”