Ashley Danyew

Prayers for Choirs: No. 10

posted October 19th, 2016 // comment

A short devotion and prayer for church choirs for election season | @ashleydanyew

It’s that time again.

The time when some of us start to feel a little anxious, a little unsettled. When everything feels like “us” vs. “them.” When we sometimes feel like we’re on opposing sides from people we call friends and neighbors. When it feels like we’re more divided as a country and a community than ever.

It’s election season, and this year, it’s more polarizing than ever.

All you have to do is turn on the news, or scroll through Twitter or Facebook, or scan the headlines in the checkout aisle.

Some people get loud about their opinions, others get quiet. Some get angry, others feel uneasy, and many feel afraid. Some people put signs in their yards or stickers on their cars to let everyone know where they stand – constant visual reminders of the turmoil and conflict across our nation right now. Others keep their opinions to themselves to try to keep the peace with family, friends, and neighbors.

As much as we may feel forced to choose a side and as easy as it may be to surround ourselves with people who are like-minded, I believe we are called to something greater. Something harder and more challenging, yes, but also something much more rewarding.  Read more…

The Rewards and Challenges of Being a Director/Accompanist

posted October 17th, 2016 // comment

The rewards and challenges of being a church choir director/accompanist (+ a few pro tips and creative solutions!) | @ashleydanyewA few years ago, I read an article by Vern Sanders of Creator Magazine called “5 Shocking Truths About Director Accompanists.”

At the time, I was a director/accompanist at a small church with a choir of about 20 people. I found I could direct most things from the piano just fine and I think it helped the choir take more responsibility for their music-making. But, I realize this was a unique situation. There are always rewards and challenges with the job – that goes without saying. And in a larger church with a larger choir doing more difficult music, I can see how the role of director/accompanist would be more challenging and could in fact limit what the choir is able to do.

Recently, I received an email from a reader – Tami Thompson of Grace United Methodist Church in Hamilton, Ohio. She recently stepped into the role of director/accompanist for the first time and shared some of the joys and challenges so far. It got me thinking:

As a director/accompanist, what are the practical challenges of running a rehearsal, directing on Sunday mornings, logistics, etc.? Are there any creative solutions? What are the rewards or benefits of directing from the keyboard? Read more…

75 Hymns that Teach Musical Concepts

posted October 12th, 2016 // comment

75 hymns that teach musical concepts: a comprehensive hymn index for children's and youth choir directors | @ashleydanyew“When we sing a hymn, we are singing history.” – Paul Lusher (source)

Hymn-singing is a tradition that spans the centuries, uniting us with believers in the past, present, and future. But I believe hymns are more than historical relics. Here are three primary things I think we can learn from hymns still today:

Church Heritage

There’s so much history and tradition embedded in hymns. We carry on a piece of that legacy when we come together for worship and sing the same hymns that others have sung for hundreds of years. And at the same time, we’re preserving important parts of music history: “Much of the musical heritage of the church is encountered in hymnology: such forms as plainsong, chorale, psalm tune, and gospel hymn.” – Hanna Katja Elina Powell (source) Read more…

How to Create Your Own Doxology Transitions

posted October 10th, 2016 // comment

How to create your own Doxology transitions (with four real-life examples) | @ashleydanyewThere are lots of ways to add musical creativity into worship:

hymn harmonizations
transpositions for the last verse
a trumpet obbligato for “Now Thank We All Our God”
traveling music as the choir moves into place
a soprano descant (that your sopranos can sing) for “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
newly-composed parts for the praise band

But every week? Who has time for that?!

There’s one thing I’ve been challenging myself to do every Sunday since July. It’s helped me grow as a musician and proved meaningful for congregation members. And now, it’s something I look forward to as part of my planning and preparation for Sunday each week. It is:

Creating transitions from the offertory to the doxology.  Read more…

Happy anniversary, darling

posted October 8th, 2016 // comment

Dear SD,

Five years ago, on a sunny Fall day in Southern Vermont, we gathered in an old wooden meeting house with our friends and family and promised to love and cherish each other all the days of our lives.

It’s still our favorite day ever.

Things haven’t always been easy and there have been plenty of hard days alongside the good ones these past five years, but I am forever grateful to walk through life by your side. I feel so blessed to call you mine. Read more…

Tips for Working with Changing Voices in Youth Choir

posted October 5th, 2016 // comment

Tips for working with changing voices in youth choir - helpful strategies for overcoming common problems | @ashleydanyew

Voice change.

It’s one of the unique aspects of working with a middle school or high school youth choir and it’s a process – one that takes understanding, patience, and flexibility.

Voice change occurs during adolescence when the larynx and vocal cords lengthen and thicken (source). For boys, the change is dramatic; for girls, more subtle. However, it is important to recognize the changes that occur in all voices and ways to encourage and support singers throughout the process (and keep them singing!).

Encouragement is vital to the process. Do what you can to make singers feel comfortable experimenting and trying things, help them learn how to be flexible and support one another throughout the process.

Voice change differs from person to person (source). For boys, it may begin as early as age 9, though it occurs most often between ages 12-15 (source). The complete process may take anywhere from 18 months to three years, depending on the person (source). For girls, voice change often occurs between ages 11-15 and may take up to four years. Read more…

Hello, Fall (Collection)

posted October 3rd, 2016 // comment

Hello, Fall.

So happy to share the all-new Fall 2016 collection with you, now available in the Doxology Press Shop on Etsy! The new collection includes prints, holiday cards (including a custom design option), and a brand new (printable!) Advent calendar based on your favorite hymns and carols of the season.

Christmas Cards by Doxology Press | Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 9

posted September 28th, 2016 // comment

A short devotion and prayer for church choirs about seasons of life (part of a larger series of prayers for church choirs) | @ashleydanyew

One of my favorite things about living in the Northeast is the change in seasons.

I love the white winter landscapes and the first shades of green in spring; the lush, green gardens and the fiery reds and golds of fall. Everything feels new, yet familiar at the same time.

There’s a certain rhythm to the change in seasons. Every few months, we yearn for change—a fresh start, something to wake up within us and come to life again.

But change is bittersweet. Because while we embrace the new season (scarves! apple cider! leaves!), we must leave behind the old. It’s part of moving forward, moving on. It’s part of growing, maturing, and learning. It’s part of life.

Just like the seasons of the year, God gives us seasons in life, as well: seasons of friendship and of loneliness, seasons of abundance and want, seasons of love and heartache.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 Read more…

Music for Communion: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

posted September 26th, 2016 // 2 comments

Music for Communion: 40+ songs, hymns, and anthems for choir, congregation, and/or handbells | @ashleydanyewCommunion may be one of our most sacred traditions in the church. It’s a tangible way to remember, to accept the gift of grace and forgiveness, to make Christ’s sacrifice real again.

Some churches celebrate communion once a quarter; others, once a month. And there are many congregations that share communion every Sunday.

You may not choose communion-themed music for every communion Sunday, but every so often, it can be nice to choose an anthem, congregational song or hymn, or instrumental piece that ties in with this sacred tradition.

Today, I’m sharing a variety of music that would work well for communion Sundays throughout the year (including World Communion Sunday, All Saints’ Sunday, the Sundays leading up to Thanksgiving, and Holy Week).

I tried to include something for everyone – traditional anthems, contemporary songs, music with congregational participation, and even a few handbell arrangements. Enjoy!  Read more…

Breathing Exercises for Choirs of All Ages

posted September 21st, 2016 // comment

Breathing exercises for choirs of all ages - strategies and warm-ups you can use right away | @ashleydanyew

Breathing is a vital component of singing.

But the way we breathe when singing is different than the way we breathe in everyday life, requiring us to use our respiratory muscles in new and different ways.

The goal when singing is to have breath control and good breath support.

Breath control means being able to inhale quickly and exhale slowly throughout the phrase while maintaining good posture. (source)

Breath support means using other muscles (e.g. abdomen, back) to support the work of the lungs and foster better tone production and the ability to sing longer phrases. (source)

But how do you do develop these skills, especially when working with a volunteer choir?

Today, I’m sharing a few warm-up exercises and helpful teaching strategies for talking about breath and helping your choir members (of all ages!) develop breath control and good breath support.  Read more…

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