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High school choirs to perform Saturday with modern hymn composers

Kristyn and Keith Getty, self-described modern hymn writers, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 19 at the Corn Palace. (Publicity image)

“Modern” and “hymns” don’t always go together.

But for Keith and Kristyn Getty, self-described modern hymn composers and recording artists, they often can.

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The Gettys will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Corn Palace. Tickets are $25, and available at the Corn Palace box office at 995-8430 or

Sunshine Bible Academy, near Miller, is sponsoring the concert, which also will feature choirs from five South Dakota high schools, including SBA, Mitchell Christian High School, Dakota Christian School, James Valley Christian and Rapid City Christian.

Jason Watson, superintendent at Sunshine Bible Academy, said he didn’t originally foresee a student choir backing up the Gettys’ performance. But after visiting with members of the Getty organization, Watson said he learned they like to have choirs back them up — and the bigger the better.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to get multiple schools involved,” he said.

He estimates there will be about 130 students from the five schools, and they will be onstage throughout the concert. He said the first half of the concert will be conducted by the choral director from Rapid City, and the second half by the choral director for SBA.

The concert set includes about 18 songs, and Watson said the choirs will join in most of them. It’s been a lot of work to prepare, said Kathy Liesinger, music director at Mitchell Christian, but that’s OK.

“I think it’s a neat opportunity for kids,” she said. “Lots of people don’t ever get to do something like that.”

Originally from Northern Ireland, the Gettys now live near Nashville, Tenn. Their U.S. recordings include “Awaken The Dawn” and “Joy – An Irish Christmas.” Their best-known work, perhaps, is “In Christ Alone,” which Keith Getty co-wrote with Stuart Townend and which has been recorded by artists such as Owl City, Natalie Grant and Newsboys.

Their style includes their Irish heritage and Christian hymns, along with a country/bluegrass connection, Keith Getty said in a recent interview with The Daily Republic. Getty described their concert as high-energy, with even a bit of Irish dancing thrown in.

“It’s a really special evening, and we’re so excited about it,” he said.

Though the Gettys have graced the stages of Franklin Graham crusades, the GMA Dove Awards and the legendary Grand Ole Opry, Keith Getty said the couple have dialed down their concert schedule in recent years, and now only tour about 12 weeks a year.

Getty said less time on the road has given them more time for family — Kristyn is six months pregnant with their second child, a girl — and to focus on their first love: writing.

“It’s just been wonderful,” he said. “I think professionally, in terms of what we’re passionate about, we’re primarily writers. We write hymns. That’s what we do.”

Conscious of the oft-contentious debate on traditional versus contemporary worship music used in church services and other religious settings, Getty said he and his wife see their music as a bridge between the two extremes.

“To me, it’s never been an issue. Philosophically, we are the modern worship generation,” he said. “If you write modern hymns, you’re never going to be a true cutting edge for the young people, and you’re never going to be a true traditionalist’s favorite thing.”

Their desire to pen hymns, he said, came from wanting to create more “robust,” theologically based songs in the tradition of Charles Wesley (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”) or Fanny Crosby (“Safe In the Arms of Jesus”). But they wanted their music to be a complement to, rather than a replacement of, modern praise and worship songs — songs that could join generations together, and help Christians understand their faith without being too complicated.

“We felt, alongside modern worship, we wanted to create a modern canon,” Getty said. “Our goal was to try to write some songs people are able to sing for longer periods of time.”

“In Christ Alone” typifies that unification, Getty said, noting it was the closing track to the most recent “Passion” album — recorded in conjunction with the 2013 Passion Conference attended by some 60,000 university students in Atlanta, Ga. The song was also featured in March during the enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the most prominent and powerful officials in the Church of England.

“Great truth, great words, great theology, great melodies are all mixed together,” Getty said. “Our audience is a complete mix of personalities. We get people of every age group.”

If you go:

The Gettys will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Corn Palace. Tickets are $25, and available at the Corn Palace box office at 995-8430 or