On Saturday, October 28 at the Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga, Covenant College students involved in Covenant Singers and Chamber Singers joined a choir of voices from churches all across Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. All of these voices joined to sing with Keith and Kristyn Getty in their concert titled “Facing a Task Unfinished.” The Gettys are originally from Northern Ireland, but they currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. This concert is the first time the Gettys have ever performed in Chattanooga.
Occurring three days before the long awaited celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this concert served as a reminder of how the Reformation continues to influence worship, particularly in regards to the role of music in churches. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church began restricting congregational involvement in worship, particularly in joint singing. Martin Luther, whom Keith Getty mentioned as one of the main influences for his hymn writing, was known for saying that, “Music is next to theology.”
This ideology heavily influenced Luther’s hymn writing for the Lutheran Church since he believed that music is extremely powerful and that it trains the congregation how to think about God. Thus, Luther believed the songs of the church were crucial to believers’ understanding of God, ought to be rich in doctrine, and sung by the entire congregation.
Keith and Kristyn Getty, known for writing “In Christ Alone” and “The Power of the Cross,” seek to compose modern hymns for the church that are filled with rich doctrine and compelling encouragement to believers. Milagro Guerra (‘20), a member of Covenant Singers who participated in the concert, commented that, “When performing, I get a chance to listen to the words I’m singing and to hear how powerful they are and how much truth applies to our lives.” The thoughtfully written hymns were not only sung by the choir members, but often included the participation of the audience. Echoing the ideals of Martin Luther, the Gettys emphasize the importance of congregational singing in the church and exhibited that in their concert. Keith Getty explained how they love working with choirs whom he believes are essential in leading the congregation in worship.
The concert began with the full band, the entire choir, Keith on piano, and Kristyn on vocals performing the well known hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” Immediately following this hymn, the band (composed of a combination of jazz, bluegrass, classical, and traditional Irish musicians) played an instrumental number that highlighted the varied instruments, including flutes from around the world, a drumset, an acoustic guitar, an electric and acoustic bass, a banjo, and two violins.
One surprise in the midst of this instrumental was a tap solo similar to Irish step dance performed by one of the violinists. Abigail DeGraaf (‘17), a senior in Chamber Singers, commented on how she thoroughly enjoyed this instrumental piece saying, “The instrumentalists were so talented and loved their work, so it helped me to get into it and appreciate [the whole experience] a lot more. When you are getting to collaborate on something with really talented people who love what they're doing it helps you get pumped up.” The absolute joy of the musicians radiated through the choir and acted as a catalyst in creating a genuine worshipful experience for the rest of the concert.
At intermission, a representative from International Justice Mission, an organization that the Gettys support, gave a testimony on the work I.J.M. does internationally to end slavery. The Gettys attempt to include a representative from different organizations they support at every concert to encourage the audience to get involved in their mission in some way.
The rest of the concert consisted of many other hymns, including “Living Waters,” “My Worth Is Not in What I Own,” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” and “Facing a Task Unfinished.” Many of the participants and the audience members were truly blessed by being involved in this concert.
Eddie Sunder (‘19), a junior in Chamber Singers, commented that, “It was humbling to know that these people seemed like regular people who really liked worshiping God and writing cool music.” The commitment of Keith and Kristyn Getty to compose modern, doctrinally enriching hymns was clearly witnessed at this concert, and it was an honor for members of the Covenant College choral ensembles to be involved.