What prompted this Northern Celtic tour now that you’re both based in the U.S.? Why these locations, and why now?
Well for a couple of Belfast kids Nashville is pretty hot in summer!
Seriously though - we are excited to return home to the U.K. and share our latest and most personal project to date, Hymns for the Christian Life. The concept for these songs began two years ago when we took a break from touring and settled in Nashville, Tennessee. During this time we had our first and long-awaited child, Eliza Joy. We also began to connect with a new church family, members of our band, new neighbors and local musicians.
Amid conversations with friends and co-workers around our dinner table and on our front porch, we found ourselves discussing the challenges of the Christian life. We pondered ideas such as What does it mean to succeed in your job but not make it your god? How do I handle doubt? In what way should I pray for my children? What is our responsibility for the care for others inside and outside my community? We believe the gospel story touches every part of life. So these new songs are a reflection of those conversations and us turning to the Gospel for guidance.
The musical inspiration for these new songs comes from both our Celtic heritage and the American folk and bluegrass music we’ve come to love since moving to Nashville. Since the sound is such a mix of both types of music, we planned a tour that will include the Celtic Islands and cities across the U.S. We’ll begin this spring with the Northern Celtic tour, return to the States for additional stops, then come back to the UK next autumn for the Southern Celtic tour.
Looking at the details of the tour, there’s an impressive and even ambitious list of collaborators. How did it all come together?
The collaborative partnership with many of these individuals and groups flows naturally from long-standing relationships we’ve had with them – we know well each other’s strengths and weaknesses! We’ve been involved with the New Irish Choir and Orchestra for 18 years. Noel Treddinick (of All Soul’s Choir and Orchestra) helped us found the group and we in turn were involved in founding the New Scottish Choir and Orchestra. We’re also bringing musicians from the States who we have worked and shared life with for several years. And of course, we’ve worked with Stuart Townend now for more than a decade. So it feels like a natural extension of our friendships to create an event like this together.
Could you tell us a bit about the vision behind the ‘new hymnody’ we’ve been hearing about? Should we be expecting a congregational aspect, similar to your past song writing? And, if so, will there be any resources made available to churches?
Hymns for the Christian Life really is an outgrowth of our hymn-writing partnership with Stuart Townend that’s spanned across the past 12 years. When we first began writing music, we focused on doctrinal hymns. Then, we began to write songs to fit different parts of a church service. These latest hymns are more reflective on everyday aspects of the Christian life. On the tour, we’ll introduce these new songs during the first part of the concert, followed by our songs that focus on the life of Christ and how that ultimately informs everything. As always, our desire is to see the body of Christ encouraged and strengthened through singing. Regardless of the song’s content or theme, we want each song that we create to be easily singable and allow the word of Christ to dwell richly within believers. We’ve recorded a six-track album that serves as an introduction to the Hymns for the Christian Life project, which will be available at each concert. The project in its entirety will be released sometime within the next year, along with an an accompanying songbook for churches.
I personally am looking forward to hearing both the familiar hymns and the new songs, to be performed by live orchestras too. But, how do you and your team stay true to the vision and keep the tour from becoming just a series of gigs?
That all depends on the kind of people involved in a tour. We’re so grateful to work alongside individuals who’ve given their entire professional lives to helping musicians stay true to their vision and calling. We also work alongside churches who strive to create a space for musicians to share their music for the glory of God’s kingdom. Our band shares those same values and we have many ministry partners across the USA and UK who are praying for all who will be part of the concerts and leadership events.
The day is a lot more than simply the concerts - at lunch there is a leadership event for each city and after each concert members of the band stay around the foyer and 'jam' for people to enjoy long into the evening. All of it together is an opportunity for us to each stay engaged with the community of believers.
For more information visit www.Gettymusic.com/tour.aspx