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After 350 Years of Tradition, a Boys’ Choir Now Admits Girls

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Cambridge, UK — Last Thursday at 8am St. John’s College Choir, CambridgeSuffocating yawns when they started their first rehearsal of the day with some voice practice. Soon, the room was filled with lots of “Ooo” and “Zah” sounds.

As the choir warmed up, music director Andrew Nessinga called on the boys to sing a few lines of the psalm solo.

Then the director did what none of his predecessors did in the entire 350-year history of the choir. He called on the girl to sing. Amelia Crickton-Stuart, 10, immediately pushed her glasses up to her nose and sang two high and pure lines about God’s “her right hand is full of her righteousness.”

“Very good,” Nesinga said with a smile. After one of the other chant members pointed out that Crickton Stuart sang one word incorrectly, she didn’t lengthen it as written, Nethsingha preferred what she sang. I said that. “We’re going to change the choir to do your version!” He told the joyous Crickton Stuart.

For centuries, British choral music has been primarily a male space, with national cathedrals and chapels the angelic voices of male singers providing bass parts and boy choirs servicing daily. Is filled with.

In the 1990s, there were many cathedrals in Britain Establish a separate choir of girls You can run the service, but the recent move by the St. John’s Choir (generally considered one of the best in England) has been hailed by choir insiders as a breakthrough. I did. Some celebrate it as a step towards a long delinquency towards equality, Anguish It may signal the end of a boy-only choir.

Shortly after Nethsingha announced the change last October, the other three choirs announced that they would also mix girls and boys. Including St. George’s Chapel and Windsor Castle (It is such a traditional place and has hosted numerous royal weddings in 2018, including Prince Harry and Megan Markle).

Nethsingha knew in an interview that the move was bold, but in the 1970s several less prominent choirs, including the St. Mary’s Cathedral Choir in Edinburgh, mixed the choirs and said, “At the party. It was quite late. ” Nethsingha received some complaints about the decision, primarily on the university’s Facebook page, he added.

Other choirs who decided to mix boys and girls said they had some negative reactions as well. Charles Harrison, the captain of the Chichester Cathedral chant, said he had received a “half a dozen” complaint letter, including complaints from regular donors who announced that they would withdraw support.

But Nethsingha said he didn’t regret the move. In April, he admitted Crichton-Stuart and Martha Gritten (9 years old) and Ingrid B. (9 years old) (Ingrid’s parents include her name in this article for privacy reasons. Did not want). The girls, like the boys, began to board the choir’s affiliated schools. In the same month, 24-year-old Nina Winter joined the choir as an adult.

Britain is not the only country suffering from whether the choir world includes girls. In 2019, a German court blocked an attempt by a 9-year-old girl to join one of Berlin’s oldest choirs because freedom of art is more important than equal treatment. the study The difference between the voices of young girls and boys was subtle, showing that even professional singers cannot always tell the difference.

Opponents of mixing choirs argue that there are many good reasons to exclude girls. Retired chorus director Traditional Cathedral Choir AssociationGrants to men’s and boys’ choirs said in a telephone interview that they were worried that if the choir admits girls, fewer boys could or would like to join. ..

“You’re not making the choir bigger, you’re reducing boys’ opportunities,” he said, adding that boys can only sing high-pitched parts for a few years before the voice changes. .. He added that as the number of trained boys declines, so do the bass and tenor singers of adult choirs.

Nethsingha said his choir has increased the number of choirs from 20 to 25 to avoid reducing boys’ opportunities. He added that he wanted separate girl and boy choirs to continue to exist. “I don’t want to remember 100 years from now as the main destroyer of the Boys’ Choir,” he said with a nervous laugh.

At least part of the choral world does not consider the meaning of mixing. Children are singing songs. Last year, when Nethsingha told his boy that a girl would join them, he said he encouraged himself for a “barrage of complaints.” Instead, the boys asked four practical questions, including a question about whether there were enough toilets for new participants.

“They didn’t have the luggage that adults have,” he added.

In a recent post-rehearsal interview, the girls seemed equally daunting by joining a choir famous for their daily performances, international tours and recordings. Asked if they felt like pioneers, Gritten said, “Sort, but not!” Then she laughed at her fellow chant.

Crichton-Stuart said the boys were “really welcomed” and they played together in the dorm. According to Gritten, the best part of the choir life so far has been the day of ascension to commemorate Jesus’ ascension to heaven. The entire choir climbed to the top of the university chapel via a spiral staircase and was sung from the roof.

Many major choirs here have revealed that they do not mix choirs on a daily basis. In May, London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral Introducing another girl choir from 2025.. Music director Andrew Carwood said in a telephone interview that the cathedral paid £ 7.5 million (nearly $ 9 million) to pay tuition for choirs and remodel the building to accommodate 30 new female singers. He said he needed to procure. He added that boys and girls would probably sing together for major services.

In St. John’s, the girls were already fully involved in all services. Approximately eight hours after the morning rehearsal, 18 children and 13 adult choir scholars of the choir went to the university’s chapel and sang the traditional chorus service of the day. When I stood at the stall, their voice soared and echoed in the vast space.

At one point, the choir walked in front of the chapel and performed an experimental piece. Includes electronic backing for whale sounds, The girl’s red outfit that stands out in the boy’s white robe. However, many of the 60 worshipers in the chapel had their eyes closed, so they were obsessed with the music bouncing around them and didn’t see who made it.

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