A typical Assembly will have three or four songs arranged throughout, and your role, should you choose to accept it, is as much "choir director" as it is performer. We like to think of the assembly itself as our choir, and you would be the leader and the inspiring force behind the assembly sing-alongs.
Example Assembly Program:
- Song 1
- Song 2
- Welcome and news - MC
- Poem or reading - Guest 1
- Educational talk - Guest 2
- Song 3
- Trying your best - community member
- Moment of silent reflection
- Special Address - MC
- Farewell - MC
- Song 4
As a musician at Sunday Assembly, your first job will be to energize the attendees: get them on their feet, and get them singing (or at least clapping)! This means playing some songs that everyone knows, that have energy, and are positive (or at least not negative). Experience at previous Assemblies suggests that kicking off the Assembly with two upbeat power-songs songs back-to-back is the way to go.
Your second song happens just after an inspiring talk by the guest speaker, so a more reflective song can be appropriate. It doesn't have to be a sing-along, although those are always welcome! And if you like, this section is probably your best bet for showcasing your original music. Just remember to check the Dos and Don'ts below for appropriate content.
The final song occurs at the end, and should be another upbeat song that people can sing along to.
If that sounds like something you'd like to do …
To ensure that "Sunday Assembly" actually means something, we have to be clear on that meaning. Please check out our Charter at sundayassembly.org for an overview. Or talk to one of the organizers--we're always happy to help.
In summary, if you read nothing else (and who has time for all those words, words, words!) read these!
- Keep it family-friendly. Kids are welcome, so please nothing that will have parents tracking us down for later!
- Sing-alongs are what it's about. And people have to know the tune and the lyrics to sing along. Deviations from common songs (like a lot of creative license or ad-libbed solos) will leave the assemblers behind.
- Guitar solos and other instrumentals can make an assembly drag. Long, repetitive choruses are also places where we lose the audience. Consider cutting where appropriate.
- Send us your proposed set-list at least two weeks before the Assembly, so we can be sure to get the lyrics into the program and stuff.
- Once the song is set, we'll want to coordinate with you to get lyrics of the cut and version you'll be using, so we can project them for the assembly.
There are some elements we know won't work for a Sunday Assembly.
- We prefer to avoid explicitly "atheist" songs, since our experience with these has led to jokes at others' expense. Sure, we're atheist, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics and whatnot... but we're here to emphasize what we do believe in! Rules are meant to be broken, so if you have an uplifting atheist number in mind that breaks the mold, talk to us.
- Since we're not the least bit holy, it doesn't suit us to be holier-than-though. In other words, let's keep away from the religion-bashing. Even little jabs can slow down the positive momentum of the Assembly. It's okay to poke a little fun at ourselves, but we strictly avoid ridiculing others.
This is the advice from Sunday Assembly London on choosing songs. You can find a list of songs and notes on songs included in the last year of Assemblies here: The Big Song List.
Hints and tips about choosing songs from Pippa and Sanderson:
Sing along with the song on YouTube (most are up with lyrics - thanks those guys!) and see if there is enough momentum to carry the song when sung by a group. Don't Worry, Be Happy, for example can be quite slow and dreary. You might need to get the band to pep it up.
Edit the songs. Sweet Child Of Mine is an excellent song, but there is an enormous guitar solo in the middle. Unless you have plans for a freestyle dance off (and why not?) it is advisable to cut it. Also consider the key and, if your musicians are capable, use a more singable one.
We have found that a good balance per session is 2 super high pace songs with one more reflective song. People find the slower songs more terrifying as you have to hold long notes.
Make sure all people involved in your SA team sing loud and proud, regardless of singing ability. The congregation need confidence that it doesn't matter if they sing out of tune or time, just joining in is excellent fun.
Check lyrics before you confirm your songs - sometimes references to drugs and sex and God and the Devil appear without you knowing. Use your own discretion to decide if it's too much for a family service. Since the focus of music at Sunday Assembly is the Assembly singing together, the best songs are mega well known and simple to sing with. Upbeat and energetic is really important too. The idea is to choose songs the congregation will probably know or, if not, pick up easily. So something by a pop group is probably going to be easier than say some super cool indie band. Think guilty pleasures. Songs you know all the words to but don't know why.
If you think you'd like to go on this adventure with us, welcome! We're so pleased to have you on our music team. Please start thinking about songs you'd like to play, and get in touch with us.