Girl Choristers on Woman's Hour
Interesting to hear the girls' views on how they were received:
(Could someone with the power to do so please edit the typo in my title?)
Thanks for the link, Jean, very interesting. Great or hear form the 'old' girls and even better to hear from their directors whose open minds saw reason and set the ball rolling!
Jean. Hope I've done it. Levers of power aren't really my thing!
Just heard the WH item. Interesting that it should crop up just as the girl/boy thing is raging on the Lincoln thraed at the moment. I'm glad Richard Seal popped up. I thought David Halls was going to bag all the credit for a moment! RS was a great musician and a man of vision. I clearly remember the girls' first broadcast in 1991, and was impressed by it. RS stressed that the decision to take girls was not a PC or a women's emancipation thing. Well, good. IMO, our next campaign should be to make singing in our best choirs open to children from all backgrounds. Listening to those ex-choristers made one realise that they were all from middle-class backgrounds. That is in no way a criticism. It is inevitable that, as things are constituted at the moment, choristers of both sexes need parents who are both informed, culturally aware and well off. OK I know there are some bursaries, but I would love to see the time when kids who have great voices and abundant musicianship but no 'background' can have an equal opportunity. This needs money and it needs 'outreach'. Now here is an opportunity for the C of E to get away from its Tory-party-at-prayer image. Sell some Bishops' palaces and get out there!!!!
Yes, Lovely to hear Richard Seal on the radio. What a gent and what a musician! It was so good he started the ball rolling in 1991. ardcarp's point about general availability is very important and very true.
RS had the knack of creating a crystalline sound, totally disciplined and with real line.
Originally Posted by ardcarp
I absolutely agree with you but I am afraid that there is too big a cultural gap.
The working classes ( for want of a better phrase ) just do not go to church. They never have done in any great numbers even during the Victorian revival.
St Albans, which is a parish church as well as a cathedral is better placed than most to attract such youngsters in view of the Abbey VA primary school next door which has kids from all backgrounds as do the other state primaries from which it recruits but in the 25 years or so that I worshipped regularly there I can remember only one boy from a council estate joining the choir but his mother had a church background ( Catholic ) and was aware enough to recognise that it was something the boy really wanted to do and would benefit from supporting him wholeheartedly despite difficult family and financial circumstances being a single mother of four children. She also had the strength of character not to be put off by the fact that the other choir parents were all middle class and well off by comparison which could have made her feel out of place although they were all very welcoming.
There must be loads of similar talent around but it is going to be almost impossible to tap into it, in my opinion, even though most places, I am sure, would aspire to and indeed have tried to do so with the admirable existing outreach schemes to local schools.
What I think is a more practicable way of opening up the tradition to new blood is for cathedrals and college choirs to throw open their doors to any boy/girl who wants to join and is good enough by not insisting that choristers have to attend the associated choir or attached school. There will be difficulties but with imagination I am sure that they could be overcome. Any new recruits this way will probably be middle class too but at least all potential singers in a catchment area will be accessed. I was pleased to read earlier this year that the Temple church has gone down this route by not insisting that its choristers have to attend the City of London School. I hope that more choirs will follow this lead.
Liverpool can't be the only place where cathedral choristers attend non-fee-paying schools, surely?
No, not at all; if I'm not mistaken, all of the choristers at Sheffield, Chester, and St Edmundsbury Cathedrals and at Jesus College, Cambridge—to name only a few—come to the choirs from a number of local schools, as do the girl choristers at a handful of others— Winchester comes to mind first.
Originally Posted by jean
Surely and ideally the opportunity to sing in cathedral choirs should be available to children regardless of class or means, but I'm wondering now if there's any correlation between school type and ease of chorister recruitment, even factoring out economic class. I would assume that cathedrals willing to draw choristers from all area schools would have a larger pool of prospective choristers and therefore less trouble recruiting, but I don't believe I've read any concrete reporting to that effect.
Furthermore, the prospect of boarding choir school at age eight must be a daunting one in the eyes of at least some would-be choristers—even enthusiastic would-be-choristers—or of would-be chorister parents, even in families for whom the associated fees wouldn't be an insurmountable issue. Does a cathedral with a fee-paying boarding school have a more difficult time recruiting choristers than does a cathedral with a fee-paying day school? Than does a cathedral with no associated school at all?
I'd love to know more. In the meantime, onward and upward with chorister outreach schemes. Surely they can't hurt!
The real problem is that for schools unfamiliar with cathedral schedules, the various rehearsals / odd times for services / Evensong in some places, the availability of parents to transport etc all play a significant part. Many schools unfamiliar with cathedrals simply will not / can not make adjustments for the odd one or two kids who sing - eg early leaves, late arrivals etc . Tricky. Schools have to be persuaded that it is 'a good thing' for THEM i.e. in terms of PR before a lot will play ball.