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November 27, 2013

Where Have All the Sopranos Gone?

New York Times Magazine:

An excerpt from a lengthy and very interesting article about how the ever-earlier onset of puberty is reshaping the legendary Leipzig boys choir.

"But maintaining Bach’s legacy has become more difficult. The problem is with the sopranos. At St. Thomas, as in all boys choirs, the oldest of those singers with unbroken voices are the most prized. Like flowers that are most beautiful just before they die, these boys have the most power, stamina and technique. There are scholars who say that in Bach’s day, some boys’ voices didn’t change until as late as 17. Now boys’ voices are changing earlier, a lot earlier. Medical records tracking puberty through history do not exist, but Joshua Goldstein, chairman of the demography department at the University of California, Berkeley, has analyzed mortality patterns among boys, which can show increased risk-taking and, by extension, the onset of puberty. His research suggests that the age of puberty for boys has dropped, on average, 2.5 months a decade since the mid-1700s. That would mean that boys are sopranos for a shorter time. To maintain a well-stocked soprano section, St. Thomas needs to start with and train more boys. "

Read more.

Posted by acapnews at November 27, 2013 12:00 AM