NASHVILLE (BP) – Hymnwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty have teamed up with country and bluegrass music legend Ricky Skaggs to bring new life to an old, and perhaps unfamiliar, Christmas hymn.
Skaggs performed a rendition of the hymn “Brightest and Best” as a solo during the Gettys’ Christmas tour several years ago at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Skaggs had never heard the song until a short time before the concert, but the Gettys fell in love with his rendition of it and knew they wanted to record it with him.
“We just loved the song, and you only want to record music that you feel deeply passionate about,” Keith Getty told Baptist Press. “We thought, ‘We have to try and recover this hymn,’ because it’s a stunning piece of writing, and Ricky is the most decorated and hailed bluegrass artist in the history of music.”
The song was written in the 1800s by hymnwriter Reginald Heber, who also wrote the more familiar “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”
Skaggs told Baptist Press the “haunting but beautiful,” melody of the song felt like the perfect opportunity to combine his bluegrass sound with the Irish-inspired music of the Gettys.
“I think it’s a beautiful mixture of eastern Kentucky mountain singing with the sounds of Irish music, which I think really is the root system of what much of bluegrass music is,” Skaggs said.
“We’ve always talked about doing something to blend the bluegrass that I do into the Irish that they do, and this song is probably the best example of that. I was really pleased with how the project came out.”
Skaggs praised both the writing in the original lyrics, and the partnership with the Gettys to resurrect the lesser-known hymn.
“The Gettys have brought the Gospel in word and song in a beautiful way, and I think one of the things they’ve done is brought a lot of old songs to life again,” he said.
“The poetry of the wording of this song is not the way people write words nowadays. It really resonates with the birth of Christ and the writer expresses this idea of ‘What could be something that humans can bring the King of Kings?’ It’s such a beautifully written song.”
The song combines the bluegrass and Celtic sounds both artists are known for, and comes on the heels of the Gettys’ recently released Irish-inspired hymn album Confessio.
In addition to their popular hymns, the Gettys are known for their sold-out music conferences, including the annual Sing! Worship Conference in Nashville, and their Christmas concert tours. They will perform the song, along with Skaggs, when this year’s tour stops in St. Louis Dec. 10.
“Christmas is the one time of the year that hymns can reach further into all aspects of our society, and we are so thrilled and honored to be a part of what’s happening at Christmas,” Getty said.
Skaggs echoed Getty’s sentiment, and added that it’s important not just to play Christmas music during the holiday season, but to live out the message of Christ throughout the year.
“I think Christmas time is a time that almost everyone is willing to receive some songs about Jesus and His birth,” he said, “but even more important is what we do afterwards the rest of the year. How do we take the Gospel and the message of the cross?
“Yes, Christmas is a good time to play those kinds of songs, but after a month of that, what do we in January through November? That’s the thing that’s most important that we try to stay focused on.”