Baptist Press: What distinguishes a hymn?
Keith Getty: There’s no scientific answer. If you go to England, they will tell you that hymns are songs in the English tradition of hymn writing, and something like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” or “I Come to the Garden” or “Because He Lives” are Gospel songs, and modern worship songs are worship songs. If you go to America, everything written before 1980, for the most part, is called a hymn, and everything written after about 1980 … suddenly is a worship song. So everybody has a different definition of it. Because they have an artistry that is slightly more timeless and slightly stronger, I kind of gravitate toward [hymns]. And I think there is something to be said about valuing the heritage that we have. I walk around Nashville, and there are all sorts of heritage sites — civil war battlefields, buildings, that represent something of our heritage. It seems a curious arrogance to me that musicians only want to sing songs that are contemporary; I say that to myself as well, because I’m a writer and I want to use my own songs. We need to have some understanding of the past that we can learn from, because each generation will be visited through the eyes of history as having its strengths and weaknesses.
Baptist Press: So you see that we lose something when we don’t sing hymns?
Keith Getty: I think when we don’t listen to those who have gone before us and we don’t have some sense of understanding from the past …
Kristyn Getty: And we don’t acknowledge that we’re part of something greater than ourselves. People have been creating music and art for generations. We can’t assume that we operate in a vacuum and are not connected to anything but ourselves. [Singing hymns and recognizing the past] helps us be better, it helps us not be arrogant in how we consider ourselves. And it helps us also be mindful of what it is we’re passing on to the next people.
Baptist Press: When you’re writing a hymn, what is the goal?
Keith Getty: To write a piece of art that somehow helps a congregation of people be illuminated by some character of God, and respond to it in a song. In congregational worship, you’re writing for an artist, and that artist is singing to an audience. In congregational worship, the artist is the congregation and the audience is God.Interview by Michael Foust Part 1 here: https://modernpuritan.com/2011/11/08/getty-1/ Part 3 here: https://modernpuritan.com/2011/11/11/getty-3/ Complements of: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=36478