Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Liturgy & Hymnody Review: GettyMusic

Getty, Keith and Kristyn Getty. Awaken the Dawn. Chagrin Falls, OH: GettyMusic, 2009. Audio CD with DVD. $16.98. (mp3 download available) (LH)

Getty, Keith and Kristyn Getty. Awaken the Dawn (Songbook). Chagrin Falls, OH: GettyMusic, 2009. 32 Pages. Paper. $11.98. (downloadable version available for $9.99) (LH)

Regular readers of QBR will be familiar with the name "Getty." "In Christ Alone" and several other hymns by Keith and Kristyn Getty (and co-author and composer Steward Townend) have been in use here in the Wyoming District of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod since 2008.  

Awaken the Dawn is their 2009 collection of modern hymns. They are well worth your attention.

What keeps me coming back for more is multifaceted. I love that the texts are Biblically rich, confess reformation doctrine, and are comforting. They actually say something compared to much of modern "Christian" music.

The tunes are well-crafted, memorable, durable, and singable by a congregation. Irish tunes are very appealing to me melodically and rhythmically.

  • "Hear, O Israel" is most appropriate for a solo voice. Consider it for an opening hymn or a Gradual.
  • "Come People of the Risen King" could work fast or slow. The current faster speed is lively and would work for an opening or closing hymn.
  • "Creation Sings the Father's Song" is a more challenging hymn rhythmically, but it can be taught well to those who learn by ear.
  • "Still, My Soul, Be Still" is another that is possibly more appropriate for a small group of singers or a soloist. I could imagine using this in the context of one-on-one pastoral care.
  • "By Faith" confesses Hebrews 11 and applies it to our walk of faith.
  • "Behold the Lamb" reminds me of a Cheri Keaggy song from the late 90's. Intended as a preparation for Communion, Keith mentions "the Body and the Blood" on the accompanying DVD. The focus is both upon what Christ has done for us with our remembering, "do this in remembrance of Me," as the response of faith.
  • The presentation of "All Around the World" reminds me of a Michelle Tumes arrangement from the late 90's. The accompaniment is rather heavy, but I like the melody and text.
  • "Every Promise of Your Word" was my first new favorite hymn from this collection. It will be part of the Wyoming District Spring Pastoral Conference, hosted by Immanuel, Sheridan.
  • "Compassion Hymn" focuses on the life of Christ and the Church's work of Human Care in the context of Gospel Outreach. It would complement well the Isaiah 52 Old Testament reading for Christmas Day.
  • "When Trials Come" would please Luther as a joful and hopeful song to sing the devil away. The Gospel is our comofrt in time of trial.
  • "Benediction (May the Peace of God)" has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it in the WELS Supplement.
  • "Reading: Psalm 57" is an opportunity for most listeners to hear Kristyn's speaking voice for the first time. This psalm inspired the name of the album, Awaken the Dawn.
  • "What Grace Is Mine" was written in a year when St. Patrick's Day fell on Holy Week. One may recognize the tune used to sing "O Danny Boy." I would like to think that the text reclaims Londonderry Air for more Christian use.
 Personally, I struggle with what arrangements and instruments are appropriate for our liturgical Lutheran setting at the congregation I serve. This is a sidebar in the discussion about worship and so-called worship wars in many Christian church bodies. (The main point is not instrumentation or new music, but Lutherans giving up their heritage and replacing it with the worship style/practice of the charismatic movement.) Another part of the beauty of these texts and melodies is that they sound good a capella, with piano, organ, brass, or handbells. One need not merely imitate the recorded arrangements on the CD.

The piano/vocal songbook is available in print and downloadable formats. As was true with their last release. This songbook is very well done. Chords appear before the melody and hymn text for the guitarist or ambitiously creative pianist or organist. The provided arrangement lays well on the piano or keyboard. SATB organ/choral arrangements are available on their website. And so are orchestral arrangements. I would love to have a CD of their 2008 In Christ Alone Symphonic Tour.

Based upon the collections In Christ Alone and Awaken the Dawn, I have a draft of a Reformation Day (or conference) celebration of the Lutheran Reformation's "Solas" using Getty hymns.

Liturgy: Evening Prayer or Vespers

  • Opening Hymn: "O Church, Arise" (written in honor of Lutheran hymnody)

  •  Scripture Reading

    • Grace Alone: "What Grace Is Mine" (Londonderry Air)

  •  Scripture Reading

    • Faith Alone: "By Faith"

  •  Scripture Reading

    • Scripture Alone: "Every Promise of Your Word"

  •  Scripture Reading

    • Christ Alone: "In Christ Alone"

  •  Hymn of Benediction: "May the Peace of God Our Heavenly Father"

I pray the new Magnificat will lead to more canticles for Divine Service (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Nunc Dimittis) and Matins (Psalm 95, Te Deum) from Keith and Kristyn. May I respectfully make that suggestion?

The Gettys hope to "build Christ's Church" with their modern hymns. They do not consider them to be mere disposable songs, but sung confessions of Bible truth that endure for generations. And they intend them for young and old, male and female.

This is good art in the service of the Church. For that I am thankful.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.