Ashley Danyew

The Church Choir’s Guide to Vowels: Part II

posted July 27th, 2016 // comment

The church choir's guide to vowels: problem vowels + how to fix them | @ashleydanyewEarlier this week, I shared Part I in a new series called “The Church Choir’s Guide to Vowels.

Part I included everything you need (and ever wanted) to know about vowel production, vowel placement, tone, and diphthongs and triphthongs.

Today, I’m sharing Part II with some of the most common “problem vowels” and helpful strategies for fixing them in rehearsal.

But, before we can get talk about problem vowels, we need to talk about what they look (and sound) like and how to diagnose them.

Here are some common choir problems you may have faced:
Read more…

The Church Choir’s Guide to Vowels: Part I

posted July 25th, 2016 // comment

Whenever I think of vowels, I think of this scene from Singin’ in the Rain:

Any other Singin’ in the Rain fans out there?

All jest aside, vowels are a vital component of the English language – spoken and sung. We talk a lot about consonants with our choirs, particularly with words like “God” and “bread” and “heart” that have strong beginning and/or ending consonants. But, what about vowels? How do we talk about them?

For those of you who studied voice or have read up on vowel production, you might know the difference between pre-, post-, and medio-palatal regions off the top of your head. For the rest of the world, the subtleties of vowel production, tongue placement, tone, and IPA symbols are a little more vague and mysterious.

And when it comes to talking about these things with your choir? Well, you can imagine how that might go (and all the jokes the basses will make).

But, no matter your background or the level of your choir, vowels are a significant and vital part of choral-singing. In fact, “Vowels are just as important for intelligibility as are consonants.” (source Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 7

posted July 20th, 2016 // comment

A short devotion and prayer for church choirs: "Come, Lord Jesus." | @ashleydanyew“O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.”

It’s a carol we sing during Advent, but we carry the words with us as a prayer throughout the year, especially in the midst of strife and war and heartache.

Deep down, we know that God is with us; but I think we forget, sometimes. It’s easy to think of God as enthroned in the clouds above, watching over us instead of walking beside us. That if he were really here, on earth with us, that bad things wouldn’t happen.

We’re an imperfect people in need of a Savior. And there will always be light and darkness, love and hate in the world. The truth is God is with us, now to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). All we have to do is ask him to “come.”

Come, be our help. Grant us peace. Heal our world. Come, save us.

Amen. Come, Lord JesusRead more…

Contemporary Music for Traditional Congregations

posted July 18th, 2016 // comment

Contemporary music for traditional congregations: helpful tips + a list of 20 accessible songs | @ashleydanyew“We need to keep up with the times!”
“We need to preserve our history!”
“We need to attract more millenials!”

Contemporary vs. traditional. It’s enough to spark debate (or cause a war) in some congregations. But why does it have to be one or the other? Why does including contemporary music mean that we can’t have a choir or use the organ or sing hymns? I believe there is a place for both in modern worship.

Emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was influenced by the Rock ‘n’ Roll of the 1950s and popular styles of the times (source). Today, contemporary worship often refers to musical style (rather than date of composition), incorporating popular song forms (verse, chorus, bridge), style (hip-hop, rock, acoustic, country, etc.), popular instruments (guitar, drums, keyboard, electric bass, etc.), and simple lyrics written in modern language.  Read more…

Introducing Doxology Press Tea Towels!

posted July 13th, 2016 // comment

Introducing our brand new collection of screen-printed flour sack tea towels!

Doxology Press Tea Towels |

Made from 100% cotton (lint-free!) with an authentic flour sack weave, hand-selected and processed in small batches in the USA.

These towels are a beautiful soft white color with black screen-printed text, approximately 28″ w x 29″ h in size. Pre-washed and ready to use!

Doxology Press Flour Sack Tea Towels |

The perfect hostess, housewarming, wedding shower, or birthday gift!  Read more…

Flash Mobs and Other Creative Ways to Come Together in Worship

posted July 11th, 2016 // comment

Flash mobs and other creative ways to come together in worship | @ashleydanyewIt’s been a tough few weeks in the world.

Mass shootings. Acts of terror. Racial injustice. Social injustice. Discrimination. Fear. Hatred.

Again and again we find ourselves here – a hurting, broken people – fighting to break the silence, tear down the walls that divide us, preach the Gospel of love over and over.

This is part of our ministry in church music, I believe. We are the messengers, the ambassadors, the peace-makers and the hope-bringers. We are God’s instruments of peace. What a privilege – what a responsibility.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together. We need to unite – our hearts and hands and voices – in proclaiming God’s message of love and light and doing His work in the world.

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14  Read more…

2016 Goals: July Update

posted July 6th, 2016 // comment

A mid-year update on my goals for 2016 | @ashleydanyew

We’re halfway through 2016 – can you believe it?

During the summer months, I like to spend some time evaluating my goals from the beginning of the year and reassessing for the remainder of the year, as needed. As I’ve said before, sometimes, priorities shift as the year goes on and it becomes necessary to set new goals and revise old ones.

“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” – Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet  Read more…

2016 Reading Session Picks: Youth Choir

posted June 29th, 2016 // comment
2016 Reading Session Picks: Top anthems (old + new!) for youth choirs | @ashleydanyew

Last week at Music and Worship Arts Week, I joined numerous others (choir directors, singers, organists, etc.) at a series of choral reading sessions.

When I look for youth choir anthems, I look for relevant, meaningful text and beautiful, well-crafted music (here’s an inside look at my process). I look for anthems that will inspire and encourage adolescent singers and connect with their faith.

Several publishers (Hope, Alfred, Beckenhorst, GIA, Hinshaw, Lorenz, etc.) were on-site to present the newest offerings from their catalogs and the choral clinicians for the week presented their own reading sessions of their favorite works.

As such, today’s post includes a mix of old and new, classic and modern, traditional and more contemporary anthems. (See my reading session picks for adult choir here.) There’s also a mix of voicings – everything from unison/2-part up to SATB, depending on the number of voices you have and the level of your group.

I hope you find something meaningful to and accessible for your choir!

Read more…

2016 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

posted June 27th, 2016 // comment

2016 Reading Session Picks: New SATB anthems for the adult church choir | @ashleydanyewIt’s always a joy to return to the beautiful Lake Junaluska, nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western NC.

I’ve been attending Music and Worship Arts Week off and on since high school and I have so many memories of chilly morning walks to worship in Stuart Auditorium, evening concerts by the Junaluska Singers, simply suppers at the Allgood House, and stopping to admire the roses along the Rose Walk.

In case you haven’t been, the week-long conference includes daily morning worship, several performance tracks for people of all ages and abilities (choir, handbells, dance, instrumental ensembles, and drama), a variety of helpful seminars and reading sessions, and evening concerts.

Like last year, I thought I’d share my reading session picks. Here are my favorite new adult choir anthems – hot off the press!  Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 6

posted June 22nd, 2016 // comment

A devotion and prayer for church choirs about healing and redemptionJust when we thought we were healing, picking up the broken pieces and putting things back together, trusting one other and believing in our society, our nation once more, we find ourselves right back here again.

Surrounded by chaos and conflict and confusion. Lost in the darkness of hatred and anger and prejudice and fear.

The mass shooting in Orlando last week is just one in a string of tragedies we’ve had to face as a nation. How do we respond? How do we lead? How do we pray?

In times of unspeakable tragedy and loss, times where it feels like hate is winning, and times when we feel afraid of what’s to come, we pray for relief and redemption and grace.

For the hurting, grieving, and persecuted, we pray for comfort, peace, and security.

For the difficult conversations we’re having as a nation and the challenging days ahead, we pray for guidance, wisdom, and justice.

When we don’t know what to say or how to help, we pray that God would speak through us.

When it feels like God is silent, we pray for love and light and faith.

Let us pray.

Read more…

Score-Study for Church Musicians

posted June 20th, 2016 // comment

15 score-study tips and tricks for church musicians | @ashleydanyewThe words “score study” take me right back to music history at 8 a.m. on Wednesdays (you, too?). Grout anthology in one hand, class notes in another, marking cadences and phrase structure and German augmented sixth chords.

Don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you analyze your music for Sunday quite to that degree.

However, the practice of studying a score – before teaching, rehearsing, or performing the piece has its merits.

First of all, as the director, you won’t be caught off guard when you turn the page and find divisi for the divisi or an abrupt modulation to G-flat Major. You’ll also have time to prepare answers for all of Lillian the alto’s questions:

“Where do we get to breathe?”
“Do you want us to sing piano there?”
“Can I sing the lower part on p. 6? You know I can’t sing above a C.”

Like those early morning music history classes, the time you spend getting to know a new anthem and studying the score, looking at the details, sight-reading, singing, playing, predicting, analyzing, and looking for patterns is not just good preparation for teaching – it helps you become a better musician.

Read more…

How to Choose Music for Your Choir: An Inside Look at My Process

posted June 15th, 2016 // 2 comments
How to choose music for your choir (children, youth, or adult): An inside look at my process | @ashleydanyew

It’s that time of the year again – the time when choir directors everywhere begin choosing music for next year!

From conferences to reading sessions to the seasonal reading packets in your mailbox, the stack of anthems, catalogs, and listening CDs on your desk at any given time can get overwhelming.

Where to begin? Is there a method to this madness?

As a quintessential Type A individual, I believe there is a method for every madness, anthem selection included! Today, I’m sharing an inside look at my process – my selection criteria, the things I take into consideration, and questions I ask myself along the way.

Whether you’re choosing music for an adult choir, youth choir, or children’s choir, I hope you find this insight useful and beneficial to your ministry.

Let’s get started!
Read more…

In the Face of Violence

posted June 13th, 2016 // comment

I had another post scheduled for today, but given the tragic events of yesterday, it just didn’t seem appropriate. It’s easy to stand by quietly, to be sad in our hearts but keep our thoughts to ourselves. But in the face of violence, we need to be bold. We need to stand up. We need to say something.

In the face of violence | @ashleydanyew

Another day.
Another mass shooting.
More fear.
More hatred.
More confusion.

Can I be honest with you? My first reaction to the tragedy yesterday was polite sympathy – sadness for all who are hurting, but only from a distance. When did that become okay? When did acts of violence become so commonplace that we stopped feeling their weight? When did the shock and daze and heartsickness wear off?

Read more…

Developing Aural Skills in the Piano Studio

posted June 8th, 2016 // comment

Lots of helpful resources for developing aural skills in the piano studio | @ashleydanyewAural skills (also known as ear-training) is a fundamental facet of musicianship. Learning to listen, identify, discern, and understand music without notation present helps develop the inner listening skills needed to become a well-rounded, well-versed musician.

Finding the steady beat
Recognizing strong and weak beats
Discerning meter and tonality
Understanding rhythm and tonal patterns
Recognizing dynamics
Discerning articulation
Feeling interval distances
Understanding cadences
Recognizing chords

Aural skills “help musicians at all levels to become more discerning in they way they play, sing and listen to music” (source).  Read more…

Meet Rory

posted June 6th, 2016 // comment

Meet Rory | Ashley Danyew

Meet Rory!

Since we recently celebrated our three-month dog-iversary, I thought I’d share a little more about our sweet rescue pup and how we’re all settling in.

Rory is a lab/greyhound mix, just over a year old. We got her through Helping Hounds in Syracuse, NY – a dog rescue organization that works with shelters in Texas and Alabama.  Read more…

How to Pray with Your Choir

posted June 1st, 2016 // comment

How to pray with your choir | @ashleydanyewPrayer is our way of communicating with God. It’s a way to praise Him, ask for guidance, lift up our burdens, and rest in His promises.

But, it’s also a way to invite God into our midst. Matthew 18:20 says: “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is the power of praying with others.

God calls us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), “seek His face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11), and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18a).

Many choir directors open and/or close their rehearsals with a short prayer each week. This is an active way to invite God into the work we do and lift up specific joys and concerns shared by the group. Not only does this help focus the hearts and minds of those present on the meaning of what we do, I believe it also helps build community among choir members.

Coming together in prayer each week helps unite us and draw us closer to one another as we draw close to God.  Read more…

My Favorite Pinterest Boards for Handbells

posted May 25th, 2016 // comment

My favorite Pinterest boards for handbell choirs (of all ages!) | @ashleydanyew

When it comes to playing (and directing) handbells, there’s a lot to learn.

For instance, those who are brand new to handbells may not initially realize that the music is written one octave lower than the actual sound the bells make (C5 = Middle C). (source) In addition, there’s the basic ringing and damping technique, figuring out how to make bell assignments, and enough special techniques to keep you busy for a while.

Where do you go to learn about getting started, choosing repertoire, teaching technique, and developing music-reading and rhythm skills?

I hope you find a few helpful resources right here on this blog! Here are some posts you might find useful:

5 Creative Ways to Use Handbells in Worship
Adventures in Bell-Ringing: How to Start a Bell Choir
Adventures in Bell-Ringing: Improvisation Activities
Free Music for Handbell Choirs
How to Start a Children’s Handbell Choir
50 Pieces for the Small Handbell Choir

Pinterest is also a good place to look.  Read more…

The Joy of Children’s Handbell Choirs [Video]

posted May 23rd, 2016 // comment

While writing last week’s post on how to start a children’s handbell choir, I came across a number of practical, helpful videos on YouTube.

These videos show real children of all ages in real churches playing (colored) handbells in worship and at special church events. In addition to being completely adorable, I found them to be incredibly inspiring and motivating. And did I mention, helpful?

Here’s why:

The brain processes visual images 60,000 times faster than text (source). In addition, more than 65% of us are visual learners (source). But that’s just images. Researchers estimate that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words (source). Crazy, right?

So, today, I thought I’d supplement my last post by sharing a collection of videos that show the ins and outs of children’s handbell choirs. Click through the slides below to get started. Enjoy!  Read more…

How to Start a Children’s Handbell Choir

posted May 18th, 2016 // comment

How to start a children's handbell choir with children as young as preschool-age | @ashleydanyewPlaying handbells is a great way to foster the development of strong rhythmic skills, physical coordination, and listening skills. It’s also an effective way to teach the basics of music-reading (direction, reading lines and spaces) and provide young children with an active way to play and make music together.

Yes, young children! With color-coded metal handbells, children as young as preschool-age can play handbells.

Each bell/note is a different color and music notation is often color-coded to match. Some music features colored note values (e.g. red for Middle C). Others use colored letter names or a picture of the colored bell with the letter name inside.

Looking to start a children’s handbell choir at your church? Here are some of my favorite products, resources, and teaching aids. Happy ringing!  Read more…

My Favorite Pinterest Boards for Worship Planning & Design

posted May 16th, 2016 // comment

My favorite Pinterest boards for worship planning and design | @ashleydanyewPinterest is a great way to save inspiration and ideas from around the web – from home decor to dinner recipes, gift ideas to inspiring quotes, holiday celebrations to weddings to design inspiration. I love the visual pin-board look of the site, the ability to add captions (e.g. notes to self), and the embedded links for easy access later.

In addition to personal inspiration, though, I’ve found Pinterest to be a great source for teaching resources and business advice. I’ve also started collecting some of my favorite tools, ideas, and resources for church musicians and children’s choir directors (see here and here).

Pinterest is one of the first places I look for visual inspiration, especially when it comes to worship planning and design.

What have other churches done?
How do other congregations celebrate these seasons?
How can we incorporate more visual art into our services? 

Simply type your search terms into the box and sort by pins, pinners, or boards.
Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 5

posted May 11th, 2016 // comment

A devotion and prayer for church choirs about communion | @ashleydanyewCommunion.

For many congregations, communion is a long-standing tradition – something we celebrate on a quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis. It is a ritual, a practice, a way of remembering and honoring Christ’s sacrifice for us: the body, broken; the blood, poured out. The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting.

But what if there’s more to it than that? What if “do this in remembrance of me” goes beyond the bread and cup – if Jesus really meant “do as I do”?

In Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker noted remembrance comes from the word anamnesis, which means “to make real.”

“Communion is more than a memory, more than a reverent moment when we recall Jesus’ heroic sacrifice. Remembrance means honoring Jesus’ mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice.” – Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted  Read more…

50 Invaluable Tools & Resources for Children’s Choir Directors

posted May 9th, 2016 // comment

50 invaluable tools and resources for children's choir directors | @ashleydanyew

In search of new repertoire or teaching ideas for your choir? Need a few games ideas for the next rainy Wednesday night? Looking for resources for starting a children’s choir program?

Whether you’re new to choir-directing or you’ve been doing it all your life, we all need new ideas and fresh resources every now and again.

Today, I’m sharing a rich and varied collection of some of my favorite children’s choir tools and resources – everything from devotions to gathering activities, warm-ups and games to repertoire and curriculum ideas, rehearsal-planning tools, resources for building a choir program, and more.

Enjoy!  Read more…

The Case for the Summer Choir

posted May 4th, 2016 // comment

The case for the summer choir | @ashleydanyewThe summer choir.

It’s a hot topic among church choir directors everywhere. To sing or not to sing? To have “special music” all summer or no anthem at all?

Some directors feel strongly about giving their choir time off so they’ll come back refreshed and renewed and ready to get to work in the fall. Others are worried people won’t come back after an extended break.

Some directors feel that the choir sets an example for the rest of the church and by not participating (and likely attending), others in the church may follow suit. Others enjoy the slower pace of summer services and a short break from the weekly choir routine.

This is a not a right-or-wrong, good-or-bad kind of decision. In fact, I’ll admit that the summer choir may not work and may not be what’s best for certain churches. But for those of you who are on the fence about it and those who are considering adding a summer choir this year, here are a few of the benefits I’ve seen:  Read more…

This Is My Story, This Is My Song

posted May 2nd, 2016 // comment

This is my story, this is my song | @ashleydanyew

A few weeks ago, the youth led worship. They planned skits and a children’s message, wrote prayers, made T-shirts, wrote testimonials, and chose music. They poured their hearts into this service. And it showed.

The overall theme was packing for a long journey – carrying extra baggage through life and trying to do it all on their own until Jesus revealed himself to them and offered to carry their burdens. But instead of playing fictional characters, the youth assumed their own identities – they were themselves and the baggage they carried were real things they struggle with in their own lives.

One high schooler shared her struggle with depression and anxiety.

Another about grief and loss.

One talked about turning her back on God, the way He sought her, and the joy she’s found in returning to Him.

A 6th grader spoke about taking a stand and choosing to believe in God even when her friends and teachers try to tell her He doesn’t exist.  Read more…

Tried-and-True Rhythm Games for Children’s Choir (Part II)

posted April 27th, 2016 // comment
Tried-and-true rhythm games for children's choir | @ashleydanyew

Earlier this week, I shared some of my favorite tried-and-true rhythm games and activities for children’s choir. Most were focused on keeping the steady beat, moving, listening, improvising, and developing aural skills.

Read the full post here.

Today, I’m adding to the list with fun and engaging rhythm games that focus on rhythmic reading, pattern recognition, composition, and developing musical independence.

As directors and teachers, it’s important for us to assess whether or not children are able to respond to, remember, and reproduce a short rhythmic pattern to understand where they are and areas where they need more reinforcement (source).

These activities will help you do just that:  Read more…

Tried-and-True Rhythm Games for Children’s Choir (Part I)

posted April 25th, 2016 // 1 comment

Tried-and-true rhythm games for children's choir | @ashleydanyewRhythm is a vital component of music. A strong rhythmic foundation is arguably the most important facet of music. Without a rhythmic framework in place, music lacks structure and a solid foundation.

With my piano students, I often start with rhythm when learning a new piece. We tap and count out loud, chant the words in rhythm, step the rhythm, keep a steady beat and chant the rhythm, and point to the notes in the music and count out loud.

I believe this focus on rhythm is equally important in choral settings.

There are lots of ways to practice rhythm and help develop an internal sense of steady beat in your rehearsals – the easiest (and perhaps most effective) is to turn it into a game. Children love games and giving them an active way to participate and experience the new concept will make it both memorable and fun.  Read more…

10 Theme Ideas for Your Next Choir Program

posted April 20th, 2016 // comment

10 theme ideas for your next choir concert or program | @ashleydanyewA few weeks ago, I shared a few ideas for keeping momentum in your choir after Easter. One idea was to plan an end-of-the-year choir concert or program. This keeps music in the folders and energy in your rehearsals and gives your choir members another reason to keep coming each week.

Church choir programs run the gamut from purely sacred to secular, Patriotic, gospel, Broadway, and everything in between.

Your choice of music will depend on your choir’s interest, your congregation, and your goals for the church music program. Will this be a fundraiser? A community event? A celebration of the church year? A music-based worship service?

When planning a choir program (for any time of the year), I like to have a theme in mind. For me, a theme serves as creative inspiration and a way to tie everything together and it helps make repertoire selection a little easier.  Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 4

posted April 18th, 2016 // comment

A devotion and prayer of thanks for new life | @ashleydanyew

I noticed it today for the first time.

The first buds on the dogwood, the first tiny green leaves on the bush near the fence. Spring is here.

There was something sacred about that moment. I stood, stick in hand, playing with the dog in the backyard. And those little green leaves made me stand still, made me take notice, made me look for signs of spring and newness and change and growth.

How long have they been there? I wondered.

How many times did I walk right past them, too absorbed in my own thoughts to take notice? What else have I been ignoring in my heart and life?

God is always at work in our lives. Are we taking notice? Are we looking for signs of growth and newness of life? Are we looking for those tender signs of spring in our own lives?  Read more…

10 Secrets for Running a Successful Choir Rehearsal

posted April 13th, 2016 // comment

10 secrets for running a successful choir rehearsal | @ashleydanyew
Success? Rehearsal? Have you met my choir?!

I know, I know. Choir members can be chatty and they don’t always show up on time and sometimes it feels like you stand up in front of them and say the same. things. every. week.

I get it.

But success doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. It doesn’t mean setting unrealistic expectations for your group or holding them to unfair standards. Success is simply the “sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out” (Robert Collier).

And it starts with you.

Jim Rohn wisely said, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better” (source). What can you do today that will set you up for success in rehearsal this week? What can you do in rehearsal that will set your choir up for success? Read more…

How to Plan a Productive Choir Rehearsal

posted April 11th, 2016 // comment

How to plan a productive choir rehearsal (+ a free template!) | @ashleydanyewLike most church choirs, you probably have a mid-week rehearsal. This is a great time to prepare music for Sunday and the next few weeks. Please do not spend an entire rehearsal on Sunday’s anthem! Plan your time carefully, use it wisely in rehearsal, and everyone will leave happy and encouraged.

A successful, productive choir rehearsal takes proper preparation, careful planning, good time management skills, and attention to detail. I recommend dividing your rehearsal time into five components:

Music for Sunday
Other Anthems

Plan each category carefully the day of (or one day before) your rehearsal. Remember:

“Success in the choral rehearsal is a direct result of thorough planning.” (sourceRead more…

How to Stay Connected As a Music Professional

posted April 6th, 2016 // comment
How to stay connected to the music world as a professional | @ashleydanyew

The years I spent in music school were some of the most challenging, rewarding, and inspiring years of my career so far.

My technique was in the best shape it’s ever been, I knew all the rules of augmented sixth chords (I need to brush up on these!), and I felt very connected to the music world and my network of music peers.

In the months following graduation, I realized the crucial need to stay connected to music as I developed my professional career as a church musician, teacher, and arts administrator.

In music school, we’re automatically connected; outside of school, we have to work at it. But, the rewards are great.

By staying connected, you’ll continue developing your musicianship throughout your career, have access to more opportunities, grow and change with society, and be better prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century music world.  Read more…

Nine Inspirational Anthems for Pentecost

posted April 4th, 2016 // 2 comments

Nine inspirational church choir anthems for Pentecost | @ashleydanyewThe Day of Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, as told in Acts 2:1-13. Here is an excerpt from the story:

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – Acts 2:1-4

Pentecost Sunday is 50 days after Easter (May 15, 2016). On this day, churches often celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and God’s presence in our lives.

Here are a few spirit-filled anthems (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) for your Pentecost celebration:  Read more…

Using American Sign Language in Children’s Choir

posted March 30th, 2016 // comment

Using American Sign Language (ASL) in children's choir - helpful resources for getting started | @ashleydanyewSinging is a full-body activity (source). And movement (especially for younger singers) is a valuable tool to helping children understand and engage with music.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual form of communication among Deaf communities. ASL signs may use one or both hands/arms. Signs are comprised of certain hand shapes, orientations, and positions on the body, and many involve movement (source). This is unique because it brings the word to life in a way, pairing language with visual art. It’s almost like a form of dance.

ASL works well with music, bringing new meaning to the text and giving children a tangible, physical way to interact with the music. Having motions to do while they sing also helps children stay focused in rehearsal and memorize the music more quickly.

Looking to include ASL in your children’s choir? Here are a few helpful resources for getting started:  Read more…

How to Organize Your Church Music Library

posted March 23rd, 2016 // comment

Tips and tricks for organizing your church music library | @ashleydanyewA few weeks ago, I got an email from a woman asking for help organizing her church’s music library.

What should I keep?
Should I put everything in alphabetical order?
What about cantatas and reading copies?

Great questions. I’m by no means an expert, but I have learned a thing or two from watching others and organizing a few music libraries myself.

Of course, there are many ways to go about this and if you’ve been doing this long enough, you probably have your own system. But, if you’re new, or you just started at a new church, or you’re looking for a few ideas to be even more organized, keep reading, because today, I’m sharing my best tips and tricks for organizing your church music library.  Read more…

Top 50 Favorite Anthems for Youth Choir

posted March 21st, 2016 // comment

Top 50 favorite anthems for youth choir (unison/2-part, SAB, SATB) | @ashleydanyewI’ve written several posts like this one with anthem recommendations for the small church choir (here and here) and children’s choirs (here), but today’s post is specifically for youth choirs.

Youth are often looking for life-changing experiences – things that will empower them. Choir and the music you sing can offer words and meaning to go with those experiences. Look carefully at the text, listen for beauty and singability in the musical lines, and look for teachable moments (life, faith, and music).

The anthems in this post range from unison/2-part to SATB, depending on the age of your singers, size of your choir, and their ability to sing in parts. The nice thing is, many of these anthems are available in a variety of different voicings (marked with *), so you have a little more flexibility!  Read more…

The Ultimate Guide to Children’s Choir Warm-Ups

posted March 16th, 2016 // comment

The ultimate guide to children's choir warm-ups | @ashleydanyewWarm-ups are an important part of the choral-singing experience. Just like in sports, the voice is a muscle that must be stretched and “warmed-up” before active use, but warm-ups also provide an opportunity to focus at the beginning of rehearsal and concentrate on breath support, tone production, and resonance.

Choral warm-ups are a great way to prepare new musical concepts (intervals, phrasing, melodic patterns, etc.), support vocal development, and foster the development of individual and collective musicianship.

“Warm-ups are where you teach your choir how to sing.” – Josh Pedde, Indianapolis Children’s Choir

Today, I’m sharing a comprehensive warm-up sequence geared toward young singers with tons of exercises and ideas for movement, breath, vocal exploration, tone production, vowels, energy and breath support, and diction. Happy singing! Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 3

posted March 14th, 2016 // comment

Prayers for choirs: A devotion and prayer for Lent | @ashleydanyewI often think of Lent as a quiet season – stillness, simplicity, stripping away.

But as much as we might try to have a quiet, reflective season, life doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes, life is anything but quiet and simple. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming and sometimes, it’s just plain complicated.


Sometimes, it’s hard to get out of our own heads. How do we escape? How do we find peace, contentment, and joy in the midst of hardship?

It begins with renewal.  Read more…

How to Keep Momentum in Your Choir After Easter

posted March 9th, 2016 // comment

How to keep momentum in your church choir after Easter: 5 practical ideas | @ashleydanyewIt happens in most church choirs: People join at the beginning of the year, eager to be part of the exciting cantata you have planned for Christmas. In January, some will happily take their seat in the pew until next September, while others stay and join the “regular choir,” with the glimmer of Easter on the horizon.

But, after Easter? Well, we all know what tends to happen after Easter.

Attendance gradually declines, the people who joined for the cantata zip out for an extended summer hiatus, and you’re left with the faithful of the faithful, the die-hards, holding on until that last Sunday of the program year.

How do you keep choir members engaged (and present) through the end of the program year? What can you do to get people excited about choir after the allure of Christmas and Easter?  Read more…

Eight Podcasts for Church Musicians

posted March 7th, 2016 // comment

Eight podcasts for church musicians | @ashleydanyewDo you listen to podcasts?

A podcast is a collection of digital audio files usually presented as a series of episodes and made available for streaming and/or downloading via the Internet.

Podcasts are a great way to learn, be inspired, and stay connected. Listen while driving, doing busy work (filing, sorting, numbering music, etc.), or taking a walk. I enjoy listening to podcasts in the afternoon while doing busy work or designing prints for the shop.

Podcasts have become more and more popular in recent years, with new podcasts coming out all the time on a variety of topics. Today, I’m sharing some of my favorites for choir directors and church musicians. Enjoy!  Read more…

25 Ways for Youth to Participate in Worship

posted March 2nd, 2016 // comment

25 ways for youth to actively participate in worship | @ashleydanyewSeveral weeks ago, I wrote a post about ways for children to participate in worship. Not sit in the pews with a children’s bulletin and a pack of crayons, but actively participate in meaningful ways.

It’s important to create a welcoming and inviting space for all who come to worship and plan experiences that include children and youth, as well as adults. This creates a worship environment that is inviting, inclusive, intergenerational, and inspiring. (For more about each of these points, read this post).

Youth participation in worship should not be limited to Youth Sunday.

From serving as worship leader to helping serve Communion, bringing Scripture readings to life or contributing to music ministry, many middle and high school students are capable of participating in and contributing to worship – often, they just need to be asked.  Read more…

Getting Perspective 30,000 Feet In the Air

posted February 29th, 2016 // comment

Sometimes, I need a little perspective.

Because when I’m immersed in the details of planning, creating, teaching, and making music, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. And sometimes, it takes getting to 30,000 feet above the earth to get the perspective I crave.

.  .  .  .  .

Florida palms | Getting perspective 30,000 feet in the air | @ashleydanyew

A few weeks ago, SD and I flew south to sunny FL. He had a composition residency (rehearsals, presentation, and two premieres), I had a visit with church music friends (choir rehearsal, duet practice, and three services).  Read more…

Around the World: Music and Prayers for Children’s Choir

posted February 24th, 2016 // comment

Around the World: Music, prayers , and resources for children's choir | @ashleydanyew

Several years ago, I planned an “Around the World” theme for my children’s choir (1st-8th grade), incorporating music, dance, and singing games from different countries.

I’ve had lots of questions since then about music selection, hymns, prayers, and resources, so I thought I’d put together a more complete planning guide for those of you looking to do something similar with your group.

In this post, you’ll find songs, hymns, singing games, and prayers in Spanish (Spain, Mexico, Argentina), French, German, Hebrew, African (Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa), and English (Great Britain, Scotland, and Ireland). I’m also including a few relevant Scripture verses and ideas for tying in a mission focus.

Here are some of my favorite resources for an “Around the World” theme for children’s choir: Read more…

My Favorite Online Resources for Church Musicians

posted February 22nd, 2016 // comment

My favorite online resources for church musicians | @ashleydanyewEvery church musician has their go-to resources for worship planning, anthem selection, ministry leadership, and rehearsal planning. Some might say their planner; others, their hymnal. Some of you might find the lectionary an invaluable resource for planning and a one-a-day devotional for staying inspired.

But what about when you’re away from your desk?

Over the past few years, I’ve found a few resources that I go back to again and again and the best part? They’re all online.

From worship planning to anthem selection, hymn choices to choir devotions, here are some of my all-time favorite online church music resources: Read more…

How to Write Your Own Handbell Processional

posted February 17th, 2016 // comment

How to write your own handbell processional in eight easy steps | @ashleydanyewAs church music directors, we talk a lot about music selection: worship planning, what fits with the lectionary, what will we do for Easter this year, etc. Most of these discussions revolve around finding the right piece of music for your group for a particular Sunday. But have you ever considered writing your own music?

Let’s start with a simple handbell processional.

A handbell processional is a short piece often used as an introit, fanfare, or acclamation. Processionals are often based on repeated patterns (1-2 measures in length), which makes them easy to learn and play from memory. They are particularly effective when played from the balcony, narthex, or while walking in and/or out of the sanctuary.
Read more…

The Ins and Outs of Using Evernote

posted February 15th, 2016 // comment

The ins and outs of using Evernote | @ashleydanyewPaper clutter.

Even in our modern, digital world, paper clutter is still a problem. There’s that note a parent left on your desk last week. That receipt from your most recent music purchase. That Post-It you wrote to yourself reminding you to call the piano tuner. A draft of Sunday’s bulletin. Unopened mail.

The problem is that paper clutter equals mental clutter.

Researchers suggest that when your home or work space is cluttered, it hinders your ability to focus. It also limits your ability to take in and process new information (source).  Read more…

Fun, Easy Gathering Activities for Children’s Choir

posted February 10th, 2016 // comment

Fun, easy gathering activities for children's choir | @ashleydanyewAre you ready for choir rehearsal this week?

The music is neatly sorted into everyone’s folders, you have your rehearsal plan ready to go, and you have a stack of brightly-colored reminders on the piano to send home to parents. What’s missing?

A gathering activity.

It’s easy to overlook, but that short period before rehearsal when children sometimes show up early (sometimes really early) calls for a little extra preparation. What can you plan that will keep any number of children engaged for 10-15 minutes? Some people use worksheets, but I like playing some kind of game that gets everyone involved (from the moment they walk in the door) and promotes listening skills, keeping a steady beat, movement, music-reading skills, and creativity.  Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 2

posted February 8th, 2016 // comment

A prayer for church choirs | @ashleydanyewIt’s that time of the year again.

It’s hard to ignore the daily reminders – pink and red hearts in the store windows, chocolate displays, and flower delivery ads in the sidebar of your browser.

Valentine’s Day. Perhaps more of a “Hallmark holiday” than a true representation of what it means to love and be loved, but still, isn’t it worth thinking about?

“Love one another” was the greatest commandment ever given, after all.

Love one another – no qualifiers, no rules, no exceptions. Just love. It’s a way of life, a calling, really. But, you should know: This kind of love is not the kind you read about in Hallmark cards.

“The kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.” – Bob Goff, Love Does Read more…

Clap Your Hands: 16 Clapping Games for Children’s Choir

posted February 3rd, 2016 // comment

16 fun clapping games for children's choir | @ashleydanyewRemember those clapping games we used to play as kids? Between the silly (or nonsense) lyrics and the fast-paced sequence of claps, taps, snaps, and crosses, clapping games provided hours of entertainment.

It might seem like just fun and games, but there’s actually more to it than that. Clapping games can be beneficial to children’s development.

Dr. Idit Sulkin has conducted research on the topic of children’s hand-clapping games, noting:

“These activities serve as a developmental platform to enhance children’s needs — emotional, sociological, physiological, and cognitive. It’s a transition stage that leads them to the next phases of growing up.” (source Read more…

Infographic: 10 Ways to Seat A Choir

posted February 1st, 2016 // 2 comments

There are lots of thoughts and opinions out there on choral seating formations: some swear by sopranos and altos in front with tenors and basses behind, others advocate for stacking sections (front-to-back), and still others say mixed formations are the way to go.

The truth is, there’s really no right or wrong way to do it, though you may find some formations work better for your group or for particular pieces you’re singing.

That’s why, in today’s post, I’m sharing ten different ways to seat a choir. I’m also mixing things up a little by sharing my first-ever infographic! Before we get into seating formations though, let’s talk about one basic principle that applies no matter what:  Read more…

New in the Shop: “Be Still, My Soul” Print

posted January 27th, 2016 // comment

"Be Still, My Soul" print by Doxology Press on Etsy |
“Be Still, My Soul” print, available in the Doxology Press shop

This hymn has a special place in my heart.

It reminds me of our church in Westminster, MA. Several members of the congregation were from Finland and since this hymn tune was written by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, it was one of their favorites to sing.  Read more…

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