The Gettys Celebrate An Irish Christmas

Glenn McCarty

Artist: Keith & Kristyn Getty
Title: Joy: An Irish Christmas
Label: Getty Music

Marked by traditional Irish instrumentation, sweeping orchestral arrangements, and a probing theological soul, Joy: An Irish Christmas, from husband/wife team Keith and Kristyn Getty, is an album so sprawling, it feels more like a Christmas worship service than a mere collection of songs. 

Thanks to the profound lyrics of several original songs—written by the Gettys with Stuart Townend—and nuanced orchestrations from film composer J.A.C. Redford, digesting all of Joy takes some time. The album runs the gamut from lively Irish jigs and reels to sparse string quartets and choirs, and is by turns both joyous and contemplative, but always maintaining the highest standard of musicianship. 

The brand of Irish music in the opening three tracks is more Riverdance than Enya, combining fiddle and pipes with electric guitar and drums for boisterous renditions of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “What Child Is This?” When things slow down, the Irish Film Orchestra steps in, providing a haunting backdrop behind “Magnificat,” a Getty/Townend-penned song that provides fresh inspiration to Mary’s Advent prayer. The string quartet which closes this song yields cleanly to the opening bars of “How Suddenly a Baby Cries,” which springs forward at its midpoint after a delicate opening. 

“Joy Has Dawned” sounds like the kind of “modern hymn” the Gettys have become known for, packed with intricate lyrics atop a flowing melody, as Kristyn sings, “Joy has dawned upon the world, promised from creation—God’s salvation now unfurled, Hope for every nation.” The propulsive energy of these verses transitions effortlessly into the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It might be the high point of the album. Other highlights include “Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven,” another original song, which features a sparkling performance from an amateur children’s choir, and “Carol of the Bells,” with the always-uilleann pipes

To be sure, Joy is an album which requires some patience—and quiet—two elements often in short supply once the holiday shopping madness ensues. But as a Christmas album in which to soak and meditate, the Gettys' latest offers more than music, a fresh perspective on the theological significance of the season. 

Listen on Spotify while you read.