Ashley Danyew

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…

My Favorite Pinterest Boards for Children’s Choir

posted September 19th, 2016 // comment


Where can you find music resources, tried-and-true teaching strategies, fun games, creative visuals, and accessible craft projects?


It’s crazy how much content there is on this social media platform. In addition to all the recipes, inspiration, art, and home-decorating ideas you could ever need, there are tons of resources and ideas for choir, teaching, and ministry. It seems every time I search, I find something new!

Earlier this year, I shared some of my favorite finds for worship planning and design and handbell choirs. Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite Pinterest boards for children’s choir.

These boards include everything from craft projects to bulletin board design inspiration, musical games, movement activities, and helpful teaching strategies – all specifically for church children’s choirs. I hope you find something useful for your choir!  Read more…

Singing the Psalms: A Guide for Modern Worship

posted September 14th, 2016 // comment

Singing the Psalms: A Guide to Modern Worship. History of psalm-singing, how to read the psalter, and creative ways to incorporate psalms in modern worship. | @ashleydanyew

“A psalm is the blessing of the people, the praise of God, the commendation of the multitude, the applause of all, the speech of every man, the voice of the Church, the sonorous profession of faith, devotion full of authority, the joy of liberty, the noise of good cheer, and the echo of gladness. It softens anger, it gives release from anxiety, it alleviates sorrow; it is protection at night, instruction by day, a shield in time of fear, a feast of holiness, the image of tranquility, a pledge of peace and harmony.”

– Ambrose (ca. 339-397)*

Such incredible words from the 4th century bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose.

The book of Psalms plays an important role in worship, acting as both a Scripture reading and an act of musical praise. After all, many of the psalms were written as songs. In fact, the word psalm comes the Greek psalmos, meaning “song sung to harp music.”

There are many resources available to us today that facilitate singing psalms in worship, including the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH), the Lutheran Book of Common Worship and Book of Common Worship – Daily Prayer, the Anglican Chant Psalter, the Concordia Psalter, and the online Psalter resource, featuring five psalter collections using familiar hymn tunes with recordings and searchable indexes.  Read more…

How to Teach Solfege in Children’s Choir

posted September 12th, 2016 // comment

How to teach solfege in children's choir - history, benefits, teaching strategies, music, and helpful resources | @ashleydanyew

If you’re like me, you first learned solfege from Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. This film classic is still beloved today – it’s a favorite among my elementary piano students!

So, why the funny syllables? What exactly is solfege and how do you use it?

First, a little history.


Solfege (do, re, mi, etc.) is a method for introducing and teaching understanding of pitch and a system used for sight singing.

Solfege dates back to the 11th century and the work of music theorist Guido d’Arezzo. There are two primary solfege systems: fixed do and movable do.

In fixed do, syllables are assigned to pitches (e.g. do = C). In movable do, syllables assigned to scale degrees (e.g. do = 1st scale degree of major scale).

Movable do, also called tonic sol-fa was developed in England during the 19th century (source).
Read more…

17 Instrumental Collections for the Small Church Ensemble

posted September 7th, 2016 // comment

17 instrumental collections for the small church ensemble: hymn accompaniments and arrangements and settings of contemporary songs featuring flexible instrumentation - perfect for ensembles of all sizes! | @ashleydanyewInstrumental ensembles are a great way to include and involve instrumentalists from your congregation and add a new dimension to worship services throughout the year.

But, what if you don’t have enough players to create a traditional instrumental ensemble (wind band, brass ensemble, woodwind quartet, orchestra, wind quintet, string quartet, etc.)?

Instead, you have violin, flute, trombone, saxophone, and ukulele. Can those instruments really play together as an ensemble? Where do you find music for that instrumentation?

Don’t worry – I’m not going to suggest you write your own!

The solution? Flexible arrangements.

Flexible arrangements are structured in a way that any group of instrumentalists can play together. Many include a piano accompaniment to fill in the texture and provide support, so ensembles can be as small as two players and as large as full bands or orchestras.  Read more…

Prayers for Choirs: No. 8

posted August 31st, 2016 // comment
Prayers for Church Choirs: a short devotion and prayer on responding to the Call | @ashleydanyew

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'” – Isaiah 6:8

It’s a hymn many of us know by heart:

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

But what does it really mean to follow where God leads, to hold God’s people in our hearts? What does it mean to respond to this Call on our lives?

Responding to the Call means reaching out before holding back. Giving before expecting to receive. Listening before speaking our mind. It means risking our own self-image, reputation, security, and comfort to help meet the needs of others. It means loving with the kind of love God shows us every day.

God is calling us into action, to ministry, to service, to a life of grace and peace. How will you respond?

Read more…

Sing with the Saints: Worship Planning for All Saints’ Day

posted August 29th, 2016 // 4 comments

Sing with the Saints: Worship planning ideas, anthems, hymns, and resources for All Saints' Day | @ashleydanyewThe word saint stems from the Greek word for “holy” or “set apart” (source).

In Catholicism, saints are an esteemed group of believers who have been canonized (posthumously) for their good deeds on earth. In the Protestant tradition, the word saint is often used to refer to any believer, as it is throughout the New Testament (source).

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-12

All Saints’ Day is November 1 each year, but it is celebrated in the church on the following Sunday. Some congregations honor the memory of those lost in the past year; others seek ways to honor and celebrate the work of God’s saints in the church, in the community, and the world today.

Here are a few resources and ideas that might be helpful to you in planning this year’s All Saints’ Sunday service:  Read more…

My Step-By-Step Process for Rehearsing a New Anthem

posted August 24th, 2016 // comment

My process for rehearsing a new anthem - a helpful step-by-step guide (organized by rehearsal) for teaching a new piece to an adult church choir | @ashleydanyewHow do I introduce this anthem to my choir?

It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another. And truth be told, the rehearsal process for a church choir can be a bit ambiguous. It’s sort of like working with a school choir, except they’re volunteer adults and you probably have a mix of ages and levels (some might not even read music). Oh, and you need to have something ready to sing every Sunday.

What’s a choir director to do? How can you teach something effectively and meaningfully in a short amount of time?

My secret weapon? Start early. I try to give myself plenty of time to introduce, rehearse, and polish an before singing it in worship, so I often introduce it at least four weeks in advance.

I like to spend several weeks working on an anthem in rehearsal – not because it takes the choir a month to learn something new but because it allows us to focus on different elements each week. You’ll notice below that my process for rehearsing the anthem is different each week. This keeps our rehearsals varied and interesting – working on several different anthems (in different stages) in rotation each week.  Read more…

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