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Modern hymn writers revive a lost musical art

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The Gettys, who moved to Nashville in 2011, were in Orlando, Fla., recently to lead worship at the Gospel Coalition conference, which drew about 5,000 people.

One of the songs they played was one called "A Rich Young Man." It’s an Irish tune that recounts the story of Jesus telling a rich young man to sell all he had and give it to the poor.

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The song had the congregation clapping and singing along while focusing on a serious topic. It was another example of the Gettys’ gift of combining theology and practical faith, all wrapped up in a catchy tune.

"We learn our faith through what we sing," said Keith Getty.

The Gettys plan to take a sabbatical for a few months to write more hymns. Keith Getty said he tries to write five new ideas for melodies a day, trying to find just the right combination of notes and rhythm.

He said he doesn’t just want people to sing along. He wants to connect with their souls when they sing one of his songs.

"You want them to breathe deeper. You want them to stand taller," he said. "If you can’t do that, you have lost them."

The Gettys find much of their inspiration these days in their collection of old hymn books, which stands not far from the piano in the living room of their Nashville home.

Kristyn Getty said she often thumbs through the indexes of those hymnals while she’s working on new lyrics and looking for ideas.

The daughter of a pastor, she grew up singing hymns in church. She said there’s something powerful in singing the same words and music that have been passed down from generation to generation.

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"Not everything you write will last," she said. "And you won’t know which ones do, because you’ll not be here. But you hope that some of them will stick."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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