Gendered Voice in the Cathedral Choir
AbstractThe past decade has seen the initiation and growth in the number of cathedrals who have admitted girl choristers in addition to boys. Almost without exception, these initiatives have provoked considerable interest in the local, national and (in some cases) international communities. In large part, this interest stems from a concern that the "social justice" underpinning the entry of female choristers might be in conflict with a musical tradition in cathedrals that has apparently celebrated the "uniqueness" of the male chorister voice for over 1,500 years. A number of related studies have now been conducted in order to examine such an assumption of "uniqueness" and to see if this has any perceptual basis. The available data on child and adolescent vocal anatomy and physiology indicate considerable similarity between the sexes until the onset of puberty. Perceptually, gender differences in untrained children's singing voices become more evident as children progress through childhood. However, the trained chorister perceptual data is more equivocal, suggesting that there is considerable potential for female choristers to be confused as male, depending on the choir and the choice of repertoire. In part, this is believed to be a product of the particular traditions, expectations and cultural practices of the socio-musical environment to which choristers are inducted.