A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

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lennygoran
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A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by lennygoran » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:17 am

A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued.


By Melissa Eddy

Aug. 16, 2019

BERLIN — The 9-year-old girl has a voice that causes patrons in a cafe in Germany to pause when she breaks out in a traditional Christmas carol.

She tried again and again to join Berlin’s oldest cultural institution, an all-boys’ choir, but was rejected three times — the second time in a letter stating, “Never will a girl sing in a boys’ choir.”

So the girl sued.

On Friday, the Berlin administrative court will rule whether the choir — the State and Cathedral Choir of Berlin — must admit the girl, whose identity has been withheld under German law because she is a minor.

In interviews with experts and the girl, what emerges is a case about the force of tradition in the face of a push for gender parity. It touches on a fierce debate about the difference between the voices of girls and boys at certain ages. And because the choir is a publicly funded cultural institution, the suit argues that its services — a high-quality, intense musical education, voice training and performance opportunities — must therefore be made available to everyone, regardless of gender.


Coming months after a leading British soprano, Lesley Garrett, spurred an international debate on gender restriction in the arts by calling for girls to be admitted to King’s College choir in England, the German case is reverberating beyond Berlin.

The State and Cathedral Choir of Berlin, founded in 1465 by the ruler of Brandenburg, Fredrick II, promotes “free musical education for boys,” according to the institution’s website. At the time of its founding, girls and women were not allowed to speak or sing in church, so five choirboys were chosen to make up the ensemble.

Since then, the choir, now part of Berlin’s University of the Arts, has grown into a public institution that includes more than 250 singers in 11 ensembles who undergo rigorous voice training and perform around the globe. What had not changed in more than 550 years is that it only accepted boys.

Germany’s tradition of boys’ choirs includes the St. Thomas Choir in Leipzig and the Kreuzchor in Dresden, steeped in a tradition that interweaves faith and classical music. Along with the State and Cathedral Choir, they are all publicly funded.

The girl first tried to enter the choir in 2016 but was denied. Two years later, she again sought entry and was informed in the letter signed by the dean of the music department that no girls were allowed.


In March, the choir invited the girl to sing before a selection committee, which again rejected her. This time, it said it was because she lacked the “high level of motivation” and “extraordinary talent” necessary to participate in the ensemble, the university said in a statement released by the court.

The university further said that the girl’s voice did not “fit the sound sought after for a boys’ choir,” raising the issue of whether girls’ voices sound different from those of prepubescent boys, and if a difference does exist, whether it is audible to the patrons who flock to hear boys’ choirs at concerts around the globe.

The university did not respond to a request for comment.

In a country that prides itself on a musical heritage that helped define the classical repertoire through the works of Bach and Mendelsohn — both of whom composed for and conducted boys’ choirs — young male sopranos are viewed as unique and uniquely fragile.

Equally important is the mystique surrounding the tone quality of boys’ voices — described as “wondrous” and “natural but utterly transient” — in the limited window before their instruments break at the onset of puberty.

But studies have shown that the differences in boys’ and girls’ voices are so marginal that roughly half of professional musicians could not discern a difference.

Abbie Conant, an American trombonist, said that while women in classical music have made progress, there is still a gap. She sued the Munich city authorities over the right to lead the trombone section of the Munich Philharmonic in the 1980s — a time when neither the Berlin Philharmonic nor the Vienna Philharmonic admitted women — and later took on another suit for equal pay.

Now a professor of trombone at the state conservatory in Trossingen, in the Black Forest region of Germany, Ms. Conant said that what was at stake in the Berlin case was more than just the right to sing: It was about granting girls the same access to music education that can shape their lives and careers.

“I have several male colleagues who were in boys’ choirs and had that training and experience performing at a very early age, and that gave them a leg up in their careers,” Ms. Conant said in a phone interview from her home in New Mexico. “I don’t know any of my female colleagues who were in all-girls’ choirs — they don’t exist.”

In fact, a few do exist, most notably in Cologne, Germany, where an all-girls choir was founded in 1989 as a pendant to the traditional boys’ choir, offering them access to an equivalent musical education, vocal training and the right to perform in the cathedral. Similar programs exist in England.

In Berlin, there is a girls’ choir, but it is only organizationally linked to the State and Cathedral Choir. The ensemble’s website does not advertise a superior music educational opportunity for girls. Instead, there are links to PayPal and details about the foundation that parents can join to support the choir.

The girl involved in the lawsuit had been accepted by the Berlin girls’ choir, but she decided to sing in another ensemble in the German capital, even though it does not have the comprehensive musical education provided to the boys at the State and Cathedral Choir.

The girl, who lives in Berlin, first learned about the existence of the boys’ choir when she brought home a flier from her elementary school about the chorus’s search for candidates. Her reaction when told that it was only for boys: “That’s not fair!”

She wanted to try out anyway.

Recently, the girl sat for an interview in a cafe in Germany. Asked whether she would join the boys’ choir if she were allowed, she brightened with a smile and gave a determined nod.

But not everyone agrees with her quest.

Christian Ahrens, a professor emeritus of musicology who published a study on gender parity in the world’s leading orchestras, said that although he supported equal access to music education, integrating boys’ choirs was not the way to do it.

“I am very clearly against what she is trying to do,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Berlin.

Mr. Ahrens argued that beyond the sound, there is the fact that because boys’ voices break around age 11 or 12 while girls can continue to sing the highest notes until up to 15, their voices would dominate.

“In a mixed choir,” he said, “the girls will have much stronger voices and simply drown out the boys.”





https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/16/worl ... wsuit.html

Lance
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Re: A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by Lance » Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:31 am

Education is for educating all, regardless of gender. If it is for "musical" purposes only to have an all boys- or all girls choir to achieve some musical purpose (as has long been done), I see nothing wrong with that either. It reminds me of the Boys Clubs of America, or the Boy Scouts programs. The female gender has clubs and scouting programs as well. This gender situation seems to blown out of control. Should girls be able to join the Boy Scouts or Boys Clubs, and conversely, should boys be joining the Girl Scouts or their clubs? I believe everyone should be treated equally, have absolutely no aversion to having a female president of the USA. I am equally for females as I am for males. But is it necessary to blend the two for every purpose? I see absolutely nothing wrong with having females in the military services either. So why not simply have "Young People's Clubs" or "Scouts for Everyone" to embrace all genders? No matter what we do, someone will come up with reasons not to do so. In the music world, females were neglected for hundreds of years with a few exceptions such as Clara Wieck Schumann to name one. She composed, performed to perfection from all accounts. However, there was no "blending" of genders with her. Was it fair not to allow musicians to play in orchestras and chamber ensembles so many years ago (except perhaps within the confines of their own homes). What a messy and complex world we live in.
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david johnson
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Re: A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by david johnson » Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:11 am

It won't hurt Germany to start an equal program for the girls. Of course, a boy will sue to join it ;)

lennygoran
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Re: A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:40 am

Lance wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:31 am
Should girls be able to join the Boy Scouts or Boys Clubs, and conversely, should boys be joining the Girl Scouts or their clubs?
Lance I found this with regard to the Boy Scouts-I've included just part of the article:

Girls can join the Boy Scouts now -- but not everyone is happy about it

"You read that right. As of Friday, the organization's older youth program, "Boy Scouts," will be called "Scouts BSA" -- a change meant to welcome both boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 17.It also means young women can realize their dreams of becoming Eagle Scouts, the organization's coveted highest rank, which can offer lifelong academic and professional benefits. The first class of female Eagle Scouts will be recognized in 2020, according to Boy Scouts of America.The program for younger kids, Cub Scouts, has been welcoming girls since last year, and more than 77,000 girls have joined. Its name will stay the same, as will the name of the 108-year-old parent organization, Boy Scouts of America."......

Not everyone welcomes the changeWelcoming girls into the Boy Scouts has not come without controversy.There was mixed reaction on social media at the time of the initial announcement, with some suggesting the change was "PC," or "politically correct."Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) issued a statement that didn't name BSA, but said that the "benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl- and youth-serving organizations, and Girl Scouts and their families."

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/us/boy-s ... index.html
Regards, Len

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Re: A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by jserraglio » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:39 am

Lance wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:31 am
What a messy and complex world we live in.
Image

The New Yorker
August 19, 2019
A Year Without a Name
Was the problem gender—or me?
By Cyrus Grace Dunham

A beautifully written personal history.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019 ... out-a-name

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Re: A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by Lance » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:07 pm

Joe, that was a VERY interesting article in The New Yorker. I learned much from it. Thank you.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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John F
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Re: A Girl Was Barred From Singing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir. So She Sued

Post by John F » Sun Aug 18, 2019 11:24 am

Germany: Girl loses gender bias case against boys choir

The choir's right to artistic freedom is decisive, a Berlin court has ruled after the parents of a 9-year-old girl sued when she was rejected by the prestigious State and Cathedral Choir. A Berlin court on Friday ruled that the city's renowned all-boys State and Cathedral Choir had not been sexist when it rejected a 9-year-old girl's application. "The acoustic pattern of a choir is part of its artistic freedom," the presiding judge said. The court also found sufficient evidence of a "boys' choir sound."

The choir insisted the rejection was "not predominantly about her gender" and that she would have been successful had her voice "matched the desired sound characteristics of a boys choir." The court did leave open the possibility to appeal, saying the case could serve as a "pilot."

What was the case about?

A 9-year-old girl who was rejected by one of Germany's most renowned boys choirs sued the choir for gender bias. The case sparked a national debate on equal rights versus artistic freedom. Founded in 1465 by Frederick II, Elector of Brandenburg, the State and Cathedral Choir has not admitted a single female over its 554 years.

The young girl initially auditioned with the Berlin choir in March but was rejected. The choir also claimed to be skeptical about being able to work with the girl's parents.

'Impermissible' discrimination

The girl's mother had brought the complaint on her daughter's behalf and said that the rejection was discriminatory "in an impermissible way," and infringed upon her right to equal opportunities from an institution receiving state funds. The girl's lawyer, Susann Bräcklein, said that her young client applied to the choir in 2016 and 2018 and was rejected both times without being offered an audition.

The dean of the music faculty at Berlin's University of the Arts, with which the choir is affiliated, informed the girl in writing that "a girl will never sing in a boys choir." Nevertheless, she was invited for an audition in March, only to be rejected again and told she had neither the motivation nor talent required to join the choir...

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-girl-lose ... a-50045520
John Francis

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