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October 12, 2010

What is it about the boy's voice?

Daily Telegraph (UK):

Its appeal lies not only in its sheer beauty but also in its hints of mortality. Like a flower, it has its brief moment of glory and then it is gone.

The timbres of boys and girls are different – treasures that express young male-hood and female-hood. It's instinctive stuff. But to work, they need to be heard apart. Most pre-pubertal boys hate singing with girls, and if put in a mixed choir, they tend to vote with their feet, or feign a 'breaking voice'. Boys plus girls in a choir sooner or later means no boys. Witness the boy-girl ratio, and ages, in most so-called children's choirs.

Attempts by directors of mixed choirs to adjust older boys' and girls' voices to blend on the same line usually loses the distinctive character of both and the choir losing the lads. Boys' and girls' voices are unequal in tone and strength at the same age---most boys can out-sing most girls before puberty, so they are usually directed to under-sing so as not to drown the girls. Not that it's sheer power---more the boys' focused, plangent tonal quality.

Centuries of glorious music has been written specifically for boys and men in the traditional cathedral-type choir. Once Europe-wide, these expert ensembles are now largely confined to the British Isles, and shrinking in number. Meanwhile, mixed-voice adult chamber ensembles are presenting historic all-male repertoire as their very own.

Today's cultural values, negative peer-group pressures and the 'curse of cool' are turning many boys off singing. To sing at all, most boys need to be in a male team. But 'all-male' is out of favour and the boys are vanishing. No singing boys points to a bleak outlook for the supply of future men in choirs and choral societies.

Posted by acapnews at October 12, 2010 12:00 AM


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