Irish Christmas concert notable for bluegrass influence

Kristyn and Keith Getty bring "Joy — An Irish Christmas" to the Tennessee Theatre Wednesday.

Kristyn and Keith Getty bring "Joy — An Irish Christmas" to the Tennessee Theatre Wednesday.

Keith and Kristyn Getty's "Joy — An Irish Christmas" concert tour might need an asterisk.

"This year's twist is it's Irish-American," says Keith Getty, a native of Northern Ireland. "We recorded an album this year with Alison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs. It's Irish with a little bit of bluegrass in the band."

The "Joy" tour comes to the Tennessee Theatre at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, with "high-energy Irish music" and other treats to put the audience in a Christmas mood.

"It's a fun celebration of the Christian faith for the whole family," says Getty. "We have some Irish dancing. We get the audience to sing a lot of carols — many of our favorite Christmas carols with Irish arrangements. And we'll introduce new carols we've written."

Naturally, the concert will include a performance of "In Christ Alone," composed by Getty and Stuart Townend, which has become one of the most widely performed hymns of the modern era. Krauss collaborated on a 10th-anniversary version for the Gettys' most recent album, "Hymns for the Christian Life."

Both Keith, who turns 38 today, and Kristyn, 32, were born in Northern Ireland. They moved to Nashville about two years ago after having regularly visited Music City professionally for 15 years.

"I'm feeling more Tennessean every day," Keith Getty says by phone from Nashville.

The Gettys, parents to 21-month-old Eliza Joy, have found a church home where they have been able to plug in their talents, and "we've also been able to enjoy good relationships with musicians in terms of helping us creatively," says Keith Getty.

"It's been a wonderful experience."

Music is in Getty's blood. His father was an organist, and his mother was a piano teacher.

"I grew up in a Christian family, and I'm very grateful for the upbringing I had," he says. "My parents … taught me to love church music of all kinds.

"It's a good thing to have been brought up in a musical home. You have an immediate emotional connection to all things Christian and holy."

His first exposure to secular music was classical, then Broadway musicals.

"I don't think I owned a pop record," says Getty, "until I was in college," when he discovered Simon & Garfunkel.

Music has always been tied to his faith.

"From my first being introduced, I've always done church music," Getty says. "It's been a part of the music from the start."

Not that his path was always smooth. During college, he became disenchanted with the direction church music was taking, so he removed himself from the scene for about six years.

"I didn't like the way contemporary music was going, and I didn't think traditional music was going anywhere," he says. Part of the problem, he believed, was that focus was being put on worship leaders and not on the congregation.

"The congregation is central in worship," says Getty. "I think the Bible holds dearly what we sing in church."

His break let him see what he needed to do.

"Out of the absence of music, I started to create modern hymns," he says.

While his focus remains on hymns and carols, inspiration can come from any quarter.

"I'm always trying to find something that inspires me," he says, citing artists such as Mumford & Sons, Charlie Peacock and the Civil Wars as examples.

"There's a thirst to try and get new songs into your body," he says.

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'Joy — An Irish Christmas'

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19Where: Tennessee Theatre

Tickets: $55, $40, and $25; plus service fees. Discounts for students and groups of 10.

Info: 865-656-4444, http://tennesseetheatre.com

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