Ashley Danyew

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

posted August 29th, 2016 // comment

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…


Spies, Shepherds, and Starry Nights: Christmas Musicals for Children’s Choir

posted August 22nd, 2016 // comment

Spies, Shepherds + Starry Nights: 7 Christmas Musicals for Children's Choir | @ashleydanyewWe’ve all seen it:

Children dressed in sheets with rope belts and felt beards, carrying shepherds’ crooks and reciting the oh-so-familiar lines of the nativity story.

The Angel Gabriel, with a halo made of twinkly lights and holding a cardboard star wrapped in tin foil shares the good news.

Mary and Joseph enter as everyone sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and let’s not forget the darling 3-year-olds dressed like lambs with felt-ear headbands and cotton-ball-covered shirts.

There’s no denying it – children’s Christmas programs are pretty adorable.

There are dozens of children’s Christmas musicals out there, with topics ranging from the Wild West to outer space to the 1950s, most with some sort of modern spin on the original Christmas story.  Read more…


5 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Advent Services

posted August 15th, 2016 // comment

5 ideas for creating meaningful Advent services: musical responses, handbell acclamations, choral introits, underscoring, and more! | @ashleydanyewAdvent is a time of waiting. Preparation. Anticipation. Expectancy. Hope.

We retell the story we all know by heart. We reread the prophecies and remember the journey – the years of waiting, the sense of unknown.

We light candles and sing ancient songs and dwell in the moments of darkness before the season of light, holding on to hope and promises yet to be fulfilled.

This is the essence of the Advent season, for me.

How can we convey this in worship? How can we make this season more meaningful? How can we capture the quietness, the sense of wonder, the shimmering light in the midst of darkness in our Advent services? Here are 5 ideas:  Read more…


How to Plan an Awesome Christmas Choir Kick-Off Party

posted August 10th, 2016 // comment

How to Plan an Awesome Christmas Choir Kick-Off Party - lots of ideas for planning, activities, and Christmas-themed games | @ashleydanyewWho doesn’t love a Christmas party in September?!

A Christmas choir party is a great way to kick off the new choir year, welcome new members, and build community, and a fun way to create some hype around whatever you have planned for Christmas.

My first year as Director of Music at the First Congregational Church in Westminster, MA, I surprised my choir one Wednesday night in September with a Christmas party. I hung up twinkle lights and pulled out a box of Christmas decorations for the tables. We drank hot chocolate, ate Christmas cookies, and played a few hilarious games (see below).

As an aside, for a group that didn’t really enjoy spending time together in social settings, this was the start of building community. Within two years, this group of singers became a group of friends who truly enjoyed spending time together.

The next year, I planned a Saturday workshop. I brought in a friend (a professional conductor) to rehearse the group (a great learning experience for all of us), we read through our Christmas cantata, played a few Christmas games, and had a potluck lunch. See a few pictures hereRead more…


How to Write Your Own Choir Christmas Program

posted August 8th, 2016 // comment

How to write your own choir Christmas program - tons of resources, templates, outlines, and ideas to help get you started | @ashleydanyewA few weeks ago, I received an email from a music director asking for ideas and suggestions for a Christmas program for her small adult church choir. I had already planned to write this post sometime later this month, so I thought I’d share my thoughts and ideas now, in case some of you have the same questions.

Also, I’m using this post to kick-off a mini “Christmas in August” series, so grab a cup of hot chocolate (or iced mocha) and enjoy!

The first step in planning a Christmas program, I think, is choosing a format. What kind of Christmas program will this be? What resources are available to you? Who will participate? Here are three formats you might consider:
Read more…


Top 20 Contemporary Music Resources

posted August 3rd, 2016 // 2 comments

Top 20 contemporary music resources: websites, collections, supplements, and free resources | @ashleydanyewA few weeks ago, I wrote a post called, “Contemporary Music for Traditional Congregations,” which included practical suggestions and a list of 20 accessible contemporary songs for more traditional worship (read it here, in case you missed it).

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great, but where do I go to actually find this music?”

I asked the same question earlier this year. You see, our church is currently having these same conversations. In fact, we’re talking about it in a series of meetings this week:

– How can we begin incorporating more contemporary music into our services?
– Where do we find this music?
– Who from our church can sing/play/lead it?

I did a little homework and today, I’m sharing a round-up of contemporary music resources – places to listen to and download individual songs (lead sheets, chord charts, instrumental parts, choral scores, etc.), where to find lyrics, and several useful collections for choir, praise team, and congregational use.

Happy searching!  Read more…


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…


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