In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

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lennygoran
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In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by lennygoran » Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:22 am

Here's an article with many audio clips-didn't realize a situation like this exists. Regards, Len

In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?


By Michael Cooper

Dec. 26, 2018

Christmas is like, well, Christmas for the boys’ choirs of the world.

For many in Britain, Christmas Eve this year meant tuning in to a broadcast of a lone boy chorister singing “Once in Royal David’s City” in a piercing voice, before being joined by the other boys and men of the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, which traces its history to 1441.

In Austria, the Vienna Boys Choir, which is nearly as old, sang Haydn on Christmas morning in the Imperial Chapel. Also on Tuesday morning, in Germany, the St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig, which dates back to 1212, sang the music of Bach, its former leader. And at a younger St. Thomas Church, on Fifth Avenue in New York, an esteemed choir of men and boys sang a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols to a jam-packed service on Christmas Eve.

Which leads to a question: Where were the girls?

That has reverberated more than usual this year, ever since a British soprano, Lesley Garrett, wrote an article this month calling on King’s College to include girls in its choir.

“Every Christmas I sit down to watch Carols from Kings, which is broadcast around the world, and every year I wonder where the girls are,” Ms. Garrett said in a telephone interview. “So this year I decided to pose the question and see what would happen. And we got this great outpouring of passionate opinion.”

Her broadside inspired a sometimes heated debate about gender inequality; the value of tradition; the particular vocal timbres of girls and prepubescent boys; the different ways their voices develop as they grow; and the practical difficulties of persuading 21st-century boys to step away from their screens and sports to agree to sing high treble lines in choirs.
O Holy Night | 100 Years of Nine Lessons & CarolsCreditCreditVideo by KingsCollegeChoir

Some of the objections to Ms. Garrett’s call to admit girls were musical: The best boys’ choirs are cherished for a particular sound, sometimes described as pure, tremulous or ethereal. But how much of it is nature — is there a timbre unique to boys just before their voices change? — and how much comes from nurture and training is much debated. Some research, done with listening tests of recordings, has called into question how well listeners can tell boys’ and girls’ voices apart.

David Hill — who was the director of music at Winchester Cathedral in Britain when it introduced a girls’ choir in the late 1990s — cited the special sound of boys in advocating the preservation of the tradition, saying that there should still be room for separate boys’, girls’ and mixed choirs.

“Removing the boys’ and men tradition would be removing something which is unique in the choral sound world and for which this country is revered,” Mr. Hill, now the music director of the Bach Choir, wrote in a statement.

That sound is associated with early music; ensembles that embrace historically informed performance practice often use boy singers to evoke the time the music was written, just as they use period instruments. But it has also appealed to more recent composers, including Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein, both of whom wrote music specifically for boys.


Of course, boys’ choirs date from a time when girls could not even attend school, let alone join the clergy. And many are belatedly changing. Racial and ethnic diversity has increased in leading choirs. And many British choirs that were once male preserves now include girls and women in varying degrees. Salisbury Cathedral helped pave the way in 1991 when it formed a girls’ choir; these days, its weekly services are evenly divided between girl and boy choristers.

Last year St. Paul’s Cathedral in London appointed its first woman as an adult member of its choir. In the United States, a very different kind of a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs at Yale University, admitted its first woman earlier this year.
Pitch Perfect - Life in Salisbury Cathedral ChoirCreditCreditVideo by Salisbury Cathedral

Some chorus masters worry about the practical implications of ending all-boy choirs, citing the reluctance of many tween boys to sing with girls; the difficulty of persuading boys to join choirs at all; and the fact that boys typically peak vocally a few years before girls do.

Gerald Wirth, the president and artistic director of the Vienna Boys Choir, said that around the world, he had seen that elementary schoolboys are happy to sing with girls, as are older teenage boys. But he said that boys around middle school age — when they are at their vocal peak, just before their voices change — are often reluctant to.

“If we don’t have a specific boys’ group, we lose the boys at this age, except for a few,” Mr. Wirth said in an interview in New York, where the choir sang at Carnegie Hall this month. (The school of the Vienna Boys Choir is now coed, but only the boys tour.)
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Wiener Sängerknaben - Stille Nacht (official Lyric Video)CreditCreditVideo by Wiener Sängerknaben / Vienna Boys Choir (official)

Of course, there are plenty of thriving coed choirs, too. Francisco J. Núñez, who founded one, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, three decades ago, recalled being asked a pointed question in its early days by the composer Ned Rorem: “He once asked me, straight up, ‘Why do you have girls singing?’”



The answer? “Because they sing just as well. And they’re committed; they come. And there are many more that want to sing. So why should I keep closing the doors on someone that wants to sing?”

Mr. Núñez said that he had had problems finding boys to join “since the beginning of time.” But by recruiting many at young ages, the chorus has been able to retain more, and is now around 45 percent boys.
"A City Singing at Christmas" -- Young People's Chorus of New York CityCreditCreditVideo by Young People's Chorus of New York City

One of the world’s few remaining all-boy choir schools is in New York City: St. Thomas Choir School, which was founded in 1919, and which trains the boys who sing with the acclaimed St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys.

The church’s director of music, Daniel Hyde, who will leave to become the next director at King’s College, Cambridge, declined a request for an interview to discuss the all-boy tradition. “Musically, Saint Thomas follows an Anglican tradition which is centuries-old,” the church said in a statement, “and we are committed to maintaining the unique sound that our parishioners and concert audiences have come to know and love.” The church noted that it often features female soloists at performances, and said that it strongly believes “in gender equality and equal opportunities,” citing the school’s summer residential program for girls, which it said has been growing.
The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys - MessiahCreditCreditVideo by Concerts at Saint Thomas

Ms. Garrett, the soprano, said that she was most concerned not about whether boys and girls sing together, but whether girls have the same opportunities as boys: the access to scholarships to the great choir schools, which provide fine educations; or the same chances to sing on important, high-profile occasions such as broadcasts and tours.

“I’m not saying we should abolish boys’ choirs,” she said. “I just think we need to work harder to give girls the parity of opportunity. In other words, equality.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/arts ... ridge.html

absinthe
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by absinthe » Thu Dec 27, 2018 2:14 pm

Some of the reasoning may be right but it could also be to do with the homogeneity of the voices. The prepubescent girl and boy voices are simply a different timbre as one of her critics says. There are all-girl choirs and a few altos who can reach the bottom tenor C.

I'm surprised the Ms Garrett rides against that. She may note that plenty of full choirs exist with mixed male and female. One couldn't imagine the last movement of Beethoven's 9th performed by males only. If she wants equality, set up girl or mixed choirs outside ecclesiastical music. She stands guilty of tokenism to me pushing an agenda rather than preserving the nature of the music.

Add girls particularly mature ones into a traditionally male choir repertoire and things go wrong. Listen to Allegri's Miserere performed by the Sixteen Christophers. The 'wonderful' soprano who hits those high ones sings it more like an opera than a sacred piece. Makes a travesty of a beautiful work. But the girls in that outfit are all discernible by way of the different timbre.

Unfortunately Ms Garrett once a wannabe soprano has become just a media personality.

Belle
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Belle » Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:15 pm

Completely agree, Absinthe. This identity politics schtick is increasingly toxic and hypocritical.

Yesterday we ordered a taxi from the train station to take us to our home; a young woman rocked up, despite the fact that I explicitly said "two very heavy suitcases from an international flight". Oh, she cannot lift the suitcases into the boot!! Way too heavy. So my 75y/o husband lifts two 20kg suitcases for her. Yep, that's equality. She has the right to drive a taxi just as long as elderly folk can do the heavy lifting. A perfect metaphor. Down at the local hardware conglomerate the girls are wearing the tool belts, but the boys are on the cranes or ladders reaching the stuff on the top shelves for them. More 'equality'.

Next time you enjoy the Vienna Boys' Choir ask the question "why no girls"? :roll:

lennygoran
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by lennygoran » Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:56 pm

Belle wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:15 pm
A perfect metaphor.
Belle I really don't know much about choruses but is this a perfect metaphor-you have to be strong to lift heavy suitcases-is it a rule taxi woman taxi drivers have to load the suitcases? Is that different than the ability of a woman's chorus singing Handel-I'm asking as I really don't know. Regards, Len

Belle
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Belle » Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:19 pm

Yes, since loading a passenger's luggage is part of the job of a taxi driver (don't know about what prevails in the USA), then it is definitely expected that the driver is strong enough to do it. Certainly don't expect an elderly man to lift those weights because the female taxi driver wants the job and doesn't think she should do it, or isn't strong enough to do so.

As to females singing in choirs alongside males; it is well demonstrated that both sexes are equally capable of doing this but in the case of the Vienna Boys' Choir it's title suggests the game is pretty much a done deal. And I'd like to see the Viennese surrender that tradition any time soon!!! I shouldn't worry; since there are now 26 genders who knows what biological combinations occur in choirs these days anyway!!

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:10 am

Sue (Belle) poses an interesting question about boy choirs with no girls. I suppose the tradition, as has been well explained in previous posts hereon, is one of the primary reasons going back for hundreds of years. But then—though not a good analogies are the Boys Club, the Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc., et al. With regard to the latter group, that is all changing from what I see and hear. In another sense, it applies to the military services as well. And that has changed dramatically; women are holding powerful places now. I remember seeing a wonderful movie with, I think Jodie Foster, who entered the armed services but proved herself and worth right to the end. (Can anybody identify that film for me?)

So, what's wrong with calling the Vienna Boys Choir the Vienna Boys and Girls Choir?

I was looking at a list of mens/boys choirs ... quite lengthy:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category: ... 27s_choirs
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jserraglio
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by jserraglio » Fri Dec 28, 2018 3:02 am

Belle wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:19 pm
since there are now 26 genders who knows what biological combinations occur in choirs these days anyway!!
So it goes.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote:One of the biggest moral bombshells handed to Billy by the Tralfamadorians, incidentally had to do with sex on Earth. They said their flying-saucer crews had identified no fewer than seven sexes on Earth, each essential to reproduction . . . they were sexually active only in the fourth dimension.

The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthing babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn’t be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty-five. There couldn’t be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on.

lennygoran
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by lennygoran » Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:35 am

Belle wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:19 pm
Yes, since loading a passenger's luggage is part of the job of a taxi driver (don't know about what prevails in the USA),
Sue I tried to google but came up short-couldn't find any regulation that taxi drivers must put luggage in the trunk for you-that includes nyc medallion taxis as well as companies like Uber. I then was thinking about stewardesses with regard to putting carry on luggage in the compartments for you?

Found this-here's part of it:
"In some instances, stowage of the baggage might best be accomplished by enlisting the assistance of another passenger or checking the baggage to the passenger’s final destination. However, in recognition of our vital role in evacuating the aircraft in an emergency and in the interest of avoidance of occupational injuries, there is no disagreement with management that lifting a passenger’s carry-on baggage into an overhead bin is not a Flight Attendant responsibility most especially when the weight of the item exceeds the ability of the Flight Attendant in question. In every circumstance, you are in the best position to know your personal limitations. Be smart – get help when directing customers in the stowage of their carry-on baggage. "
https://unitedafa.org/news/2015/12/15/l ... head-bins/

Anyway I don't think these luggage situations are nearly the same as the question about boys and girls choirs. Since I'm so unfamiliar with choirs I can only relate it to opera-I'm one who doesn't mind Placido domingo singing a baritone role in an opera and sounding more like a tenor! Regards, Len :lol:

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:55 am

Ms Garrett spoke of equality which to me is glib nonsense. Boys don't equal girls in many ways. I'd sooner it was called parity. Their life expectancies are different for a start. In spite of the politically correct mob trying to eliminate gender, each serves a different purpose in the reproductive process. So...parity.
It's plainly obvious that most men are stronger than most women but if women want to do a job traditionally assigned to males then they have to be up to it.

The discussion about choirs is a non-starter. There are choirs of both sexes, there are mixed choirs. Ms Garrett has managed to scrape the bottom of the barrel aiming at something that has musical justification. If we're allowed to audition church music of the 16th/17th centuries, I'd like it to be the closest it can get. Palestrina, Allegri et al didn't write for mixed choirs (and I simply can't cope with these groups with women who sing 16th century masses as if they're operatic arias, all quivery vibrati and the like).

Can you imagine the reactions of the Women's Institute if some politician demanded it was changed to Persons' Institute with men entitled to join?

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by lennygoran » Fri Dec 28, 2018 10:23 am

absinthe wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:55 am
It's plainly obvious that most men are stronger than most women but if women want to do a job traditionally assigned to males then they have to be up to it.
I guess a question might be what does it mean to be up to a job-also in the world of taxis what are the actual requirements and regulations in place. I have no idea exactly how this would work for choruses--I guess experts would disagree on the sounds of voices coming from the different genders. Regards, Len

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Belle » Fri Dec 28, 2018 12:15 pm

Equality means exactly that; being up for the job and doing the SAME work as man is doing in the same occupation. Ergo, if you want to do the same job as a man then the assumption is you're equipped to do it, which includes having the same strength for the same pay. If you cannot lift the luggage, reach the pallet on the top shelf at the hardware store or carry the landscaping rocks and do the concreting then the job is not for you. I know I wouldn't want to do any of them. And I would not want to be an airline steward and see my female counterparts excluded from some of the duties, such as lifting cabin luggage (which isn't heavy at all). I've seen many females do this in my flying experiences. Just 2 days ago I had a backpack on the floor in front of my seat and the stewardess took it and put in into the overhead locker for me!! Cabin baggage is of a mandated size (and weight) and isn't a burden since half the population using aircraft are women, who easily manage these. For me, there's a difference between equality and affirmative action.

I'm with Absinthe apropos his comments. This issue is so ideological now that it's become toxic, hypocritical and obviously fodder for newspapers. Here's something interesting, albeit tangentially related, too:

https://me.me/i/20-most-dangerous-us-oc ... 6bea0a9897

My son is in the Family Court these very days; fighting to see his children because his wife has accused him of atrocities. She is in situ in his house, he is paying the mortgage, paying for the children and a new man is sleeping in his bed. His lawyer has told him "she cannot be forced to go and work". He must support her, pay the mortgage, keep away from her and the new man is sitting pretty. His pay packet has been, in huge part, automatically seized by the courts. Yep, that's equality right there!! (Yes, I'm angry.)

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by lennygoran » Fri Dec 28, 2018 4:08 pm

Belle wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 12:15 pm
Equality means exactly that; being up for the job and doing the SAME work as man is doing in the same occupation. Ergo, if you want to do the same job as a man then the assumption is you're equipped to do it, which includes having the same strength for the same pay
Belle still the requirements of a job have to be listed-then hire men and women who can do the job-that's what I would consider fair. Then there are the requirements for a job as a taxi driver-don't know what they are--probably different in different locations? As for choruses that might be a matter of taste-I guess each group would have to decide for themselves what they want to do? The Met had no problem letting Domingo play the King in the opera Don Carlo-many critics were annoyed-Sue and I were very happy. Regards, Len

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Belle » Fri Dec 28, 2018 5:22 pm

You are extremely fortunate to have all these musical treats at the tip of your fingers! I very much envy you!!

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Lance » Sat Dec 29, 2018 12:03 am

Lenny has a HUGE operatic heart, as I think does his wife! I was so glad to see them at the CMG meetup when we all went to the met to see ELEKTRA.
Belle wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 5:22 pm
You are extremely fortunate to have all these musical treats at the tip of your fingers! I very much envy you!!
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Belle » Sat Dec 29, 2018 1:19 am

Completely civilized in every way!!

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by maestrob » Sat Dec 29, 2018 11:58 am

What an excellent discussion! 8)

I agree with Len's point that one should be hired according to whether one can fulfill the job requirements: if not, well, sayonara.

As to boys' choirs versus girls', tradition is one thing, but our civilization is all about re-thinking traditions nowadays, isn't it? Therefore, if boys' and girls' voices both can sing the music, let them. Young peoples' voices transform differently because they get different vocal training when their adult voices emerge. It is possible to train a mature male voice to sing like a mezzo-soprano (Think counter-tenor territory.), and it is just as possible to train a mature female voice to sing in what I call a belter style (Think Ethel Merman.). In the magical years before that happens, young peoples' voices sound very similar (though not exactly the same), and are capable of singing the same music. So, why not give the young ladies a chance to have the same musical experience that young men enjoy, either in a separate choir, or in a mixed choir?

JohnB, I wish you would weigh in on this with your expertise, as mine is just one opinion.

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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by RebLem » Sun Dec 30, 2018 7:00 pm

We have choral groups of gay men all over the place, but I know of no lesbian choirs. Have I missed something, or is it true? If it is, and you can figure out why, I think we will be closer to answering the question in the first post in this thread.
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:21 am

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:22 am
Here's an article with many audio clips-didn't realize a situation like this exists. Regards, Len

In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?
By Michael Cooper
Dec. 26, 2018

Christmas is like, well, Christmas for the boys’ choirs of the world.

For many in Britain, Christmas Eve this year meant tuning in to a broadcast of a lone boy chorister singing “Once in Royal David’s City” in a piercing voice, before being joined by the other boys and men of the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, which traces its history to 1441.
Once in Royal David's City

[QTD from BBC Podcast] No carol encapsulates the beginning of Christmas like ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ which every Christmas Eve opens the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, in the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. Around the globe, listeners to the BBC World Service tune into the service every year.

This is a story of last minute anticipation, as three or four boys are traditionally put on standby, and at the last moment one is chosen to sing the famous carol.

Its opening bars are part of Christmas for millions of people wherever they are in the world, who won't know that the chorister singing, unaccompanied, this famous carol was chosen for the role just minutes before.

Programme Introduced by Richard Gowers
Producer: Helen Lee

2 Audio files
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csy4wz

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Belle
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Re: In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

Post by Belle » Thu Jan 03, 2019 5:40 pm

A choir school - for both boys and girls!! What a brilliant idea having the school provide a cooked breakfast!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G69hMUqtvW4

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