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2018 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

2018 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

It's that time of the year: time for my annual reading session picks!

Every year, I round up my top anthem picks from the latest publisher's catalogs, playlists, and reading sessions (plus, sometimes a few that aren't new that I've recently discovered and haven't shared here before) to give you a shortcut in your anthem-planning for next year.

First up, the Adult Choir edition. Here are my adult choir reading session picks from the last few years:

2017 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

2017 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

Happy 4th of July week, friends!

I hate to break it to you, but did you know there are only 21 Sundays until the First Sunday of Advent?! I know. It’s true.

If you’re like me, summer is a time of rest and relaxation, but also a time of planning and getting ready for the new church/choir year. I just got back from a wonderful week in North Carolina for the United Methodist Fellowship’s Music and Worship Arts Week. It was a busy few days of worship, rehearsals, seminars, reading sessions, and concerts - so much new music and teaching ideas to soak up!

Eric Nelson was the clinician for the adult choir this year and I loved observing him in rehearsal, watching him conduct, and gleaning his wisdom. One thing he said that really resonated with me was this:

“Our congregations don’t need to be reminded about the brokenness in the world. Instead, we need to remind them, as much as possible, about the beauty and harmony that are possible in the community of Christ.”

I love that.

How to Teach A New Hymn or Song to Your Congregation

How to Teach A New Hymn or Song to Your Congregation

You just found the perfect song to sing next month. It has a nice melody and the text ties in perfectly with the Scripture reading of the day and the sermon topic.

But, it's unfamiliar to the congregation.

And your congregation is particularly resistant to singing anything new, especially something not in the hymnal.

What's a music director to do?

How do you go about introducing a new hymn or song to your congregation? How do you teach it in a way that's meaningful and memorable (so they'll remember it next time you sing it)?

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

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

How 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. 

Alcott Songs


Ashley Danyew | Alcott Songs_2 A few months ago, I had the privilege of recording part of SD's newest work - "Alcott Songs" for soprano and piano (and soon, for soprano and chamber winds! Read more here). This set of six songs, with text by Louisa May Alcott would be such a fun addition to a recital or concert program. The songs are short and playful and each one has such a unique character. See the vocal score here.

Ashley Danyew | Alcott Songs_1

We set up a little recording studio in the beautiful sanctuary at Pittsford Presbyterian Church. If you look closer at the picture above, you'll see how we cleverly rigged our portable recording device to a boom mic stand!

Ashley Danyew | Alcott Songs_4

Here is a recording of the sixth song, "Lullaby":


Now the day is done, Now the shepherd sun Drives his white flocks from the sky; Now the flowers rest On their mother’s breast, Hushed by her low lullaby.

Now ‘mid shadows deep Falls blessed sleep, Like dew from the summer sky; And the whole earth dreams, In the moon’s soft beams, While night breathes a lullaby.

Ashley Danyew | Alcott Songs_3

Interested in performing these songs? Purchase the soprano / piano version (digital - $18, print - $24) or join the soprano / chamber winds consortium and be among the first to perform the new version!

What is a consortium? A consortium is a group of schools, ensembles, and individuals that buy into or co-commission a new musical work. The consortium members get first access to the new work and sole performance rights for a certain period of time. A consortium is a great way to be part of a new music project without the sole responsibility of funding it!

Consortium info: -  Duration: 12 minutes -  Instrumentation: soprano (voice) and chamber octet: Flute, Oboe, 2 Clarinets in Bb, 2 Bassoons, Bass Clarinet in Bb, Contrabass Clarinet in Bb* -  Difficulty Level: Grade 5 -  Timeline: Printed music will be sent to all consortium members no later than June 1, 2014. Consortium members will receive individually numbered scores, and a complete set of printed parts. Consortium members will have the exclusive performance rights to the piece through the end of the 2014 calendar year.

*String bass may be substituted

Sign up for the consortium here!

The consortium closes June 1, 2014.

The Premiere: Follow-Up

Well, we're back from our whirlwind trip to Rochester... and we're working on getting back in the swing of things. It's a little more than six hours each way and while we both love road trips, it was a little taxing to drive there and back in the span of three days.  On the way there, we were very productive: we mapped out an agenda for the wedding rehearsal (processional order, who sits where, etc.), made to-do lists for the days leading up to the wedding, made a list of things left to buy, and wrote down a list of emails to send this week.  On the way home, one of us drove most of the way and one of us took a series of short naps (okay, I confess - I just couldn't keep my eyes open!).

Nevertheless, it was a great trip.  We arrived in Rochester around 6:00 p.m. on Sunday and settled on Dinosaur BBQ for dinner.  Y'all are probably thinking, "Barbeque?  In upstate New York?"  Let me tell you, it's delicious and authentic and in all the time we lived in Rochester, we never visited the restaurant!  We ordered a pulled pork sandwich and half of a rack of ribs (along with several sides: cajun corn, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, and baked beans).  We ordered a piece of Blackjack Pie to go (pecan pie with Jack Daniels and chocolate chips).

We spent most of Monday soaking up Gibbs Street: Eastman's Main Hall, Java's, sitting in on an RPO rehearsal (Steve), surprise visits with professors and friends, and observing the Wind Ensemble dress rehearsal.  This was the first time either of us heard Steve's new piece ("Distant Moons") - great experience.  The director even asked him to come up on stage to give a few comments!  Reason #54 for upgrading to a phone with a camera.  We changed into our evening attire, had dinner down East Ave. at Veneto - a wood-fired sausage, pepper, and onion pizza with salad - and even had time for a cup of coffee (and our third visit to Java's) before the concert at 8:00 p.m.

This was a combined concert for the Eastman Wind Orchestra and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.  Here is the program:

Eastman Wind Orchestra: Husa: Smetana Fanfare Camphouse: A Movement for Rosa Holst: Suite in F (100th Anniversary of the work)
Eastman Wind Ensemble: Danyew: Distant Moons Cahn: Night Ride for Timpani Sierra: Carnaval (premiere)

As a side note, the Eastman Wind Orchestra is the school's freshman/sophomore wind ensemble, focusing on standard wind band classics, music for chamber winds, new music for wind ensemble and transcriptions.  The Eastman Wind Ensemble is America’s leading wind ensemble, and has frequently toured and recorded.  Its core of about 50 performers includes undergraduate and graduate students performing wind ensemble music from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

"Distant Moons" is a work based on the black and white photography of American icon Ansel Adams.  Musically, the piece is full of contrasts, imitating the light/dark, near/distant, high/low contrasts of Adams' work.  "I can see Ansel Adams' work when I listen to your piece," a woman said to Steve at the end of the piece.  It was so exciting to be a part of the audience for this world premiere!

The Premiere

Today, we are back at Eastman.  It's a perfect time in the semester to escape for a few days and what better reason than for the world premiere of one of Steve's pieces for wind ensemble!  Yes, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Mark Scatterday will be premiering "Distant Moons" tonight at 8 p.m. in this hall.  This is the inside of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, by the way.  The chandelier is one of my favorite features. A few things I am looking forward to during this trip:

- Hearing the whole program tonight - it's been such a long time since we've been to a concert! - A walk down to Orange Glory for the best lemon cookie in the world - Visiting with teachers and friends - Quiet dinner out (still trying to settle on a restaurant!) - Apple Cider from Java's

While we're still quasi-working during our visit, I think it's important for us to set everything aside (at least for part of the day) and take a breather.  The past few weeks have been crazy with school, teaching, choirs, and wedding planning and the next few are going to be just as busy.  (I'm dreaming about ivory vs. white tablecloths, y'all.)  I just keep reminding myself how important it is to prioritize and give 100% of myself to one. thing. at. a. time.  Grace, not perfection.  This is not a multitasking competition (though, I think I would be awesome at that).  The joy is in the journey!