Grammy-nominated hymn-writer wrote most famous tune on back of power bill

One half of the world’s most successful hymn-writing duo has told how he composed his most famous piece – which is sung an estimated 100 million times around the world every year – on the back of an electricity bill in a converted pigsty in Lisburn.

Keith and Kristyn Getty are looking forward to the new year having earned their first Grammy nomination where they will compete against country great Willie Nelson in the Best Roots Gospel Album category.

They are nominated for their album Confessio – Irish American Roots, which was recorded in North Antrim as the Gettys spent time at home during the pandemic.

The album traces the couple’s journey back to Northern Ireland to explore the connection between the island’s enduring faith music heritage and its legacy in America and includes a duet of their most famous hymn In Christ Alone, featuring vocals from Kristyn and Alison Krauss.

Speaking to the PA news agency from their US home in Nashville, Mr Getty explained the story behind the work, which is regularly named as one of the most popular hymns of all time.

He said: “I wrote the tune for In Christ Alone in a converted pigsty next door to our house in Lisburn on the back of a Northern Ireland Electricity bill which I was scared to open.

“I had no paper left so I wrote it on the back of that.

“The impact has been bizarre. It excites us that more and more people are doing versions of the song.

“There are more than 1,000 versions now of In Christ Alone around the world.

“It has been an amazing journey.”

Mr Getty said he was originally unsure about entering their album Confessio for the Grammys.

He said: “The Grammys to me were just a distraction.

“But now that we have so many writers in the publishing company and artists on our record label, Kristyn prompted me by saying we need to look and see if we have a wider relevance to the music industry and not just the church.

“We recorded most of it in our house outside Ballybogey when we came back for the Covid break.

“We made this album when we were home with our four daughters.

“It started one day as I was at Ballycastle harbour looking out to sea, thinking of our heritage and the gift it is to be from here.

“The album is a love letter to our home: the place that gave the origins and the meaning to why we write hymns; from its first hymn writer St Patrick and his ‘Confessio’.

“It was made in the most bizarre circumstances and now we are going to bring it to Los Angeles sitting beside Willie Nelson.”

The Gettys are set to open their 2023 world tour in Belfast (Getty Music/PA)
The Gettys are set to open their 2023 world tour in Belfast (Getty Music/PA)

The Gettys have also announced they will open their world tour in Belfast in 2023 with a show at the SSE Arena on June 17.

The tour will then take the hymn-writing duo to the Star Theatre in Singapore followed by the Sydney Opera House in Australia.