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Big changes at St. John's!!!


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I see that it has been announced that St. John's College, Cambridge has agreed to admit girls and women to the choir.

Andrew Nethsingha has said: "Providing an opportunity for girls and women to sing as members of the choir of St. John's is a very exciting development for the choral tradition of the college. Choral singing is a specialised art form and our choir has played a formative role in the careers of many globally recognised musicians. Extending membership to talented female singers creates an exceptional new musical opportunity for women and girls, as our much loved choir continues to make a highly valued contribution to the musical life of St. John's  and the wider world"

I say "not before time!" - but others might disagree!!!

......................... and then there is the possible Brighton - to Cambridge move!!!

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I wonder why St John's has taken the decision to go mixed, rather than have a separate girls' top line in tandem with the boys?  It is, after all, one of the very top church choirs in the country and, so far as I know, it isn't bust, so why is it being fixed? The college surely could fund both if it wanted to, so there must be other reasons. Is it getting more difficult to attract boys? I'm sure most DoMs would say yes, but I would have hoped that the very top choirs would not yet be feeling the pinch. On the other hand, there is an obvious disadvantage in that two top lines get only 50% of the singing experience that a single one does.

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I saw this and was mystified by the reasoning.

Currently St John's service schedule for the boys is Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, 2xSun, which is six services a week  This could easily be changed to daily giving eight services to support two groups of trebles singing four times a week each. Add to this over 11 hours a week of morning and per-service rehearsals which could remain much the same for all choristers. They also have probably the one of the shortest schedules of any such choir, singing only approx 24 weeks of the year, and not singing at Christmas or the long vac like King's do. Definitely scope to add more services.

I don't buy the argument that two treble lines would have to result in a reduction in singing for each child such that there would be a consequent drop in the quality of the singing.

 

 

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A point worth noting - following this change there will be a roughly equal number of boy and girl trebles in Cambridge, with Pembroke and St Catherine colleges both having girl-only choirs, King's and Jesus having only boys, and St John's being mixed.

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5 hours ago, michaelwilson said:

A point worth noting - following this change there will be a roughly equal number of boy and girl trebles in Cambridge, with Pembroke and St Catherine colleges both having girl-only choirs, King's and Jesus having only boys, and St John's being mixed.

For 500 years there were no women in Cambridge colleges.

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7 hours ago, innate said:

For 500 years there were no women in Cambridge colleges.

In the case of my college, 531 years - and some of us were around in 1972 when it happened!

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8 hours ago, innate said:

For 500 years there were no women in Cambridge colleges.

I'm all for gender equality now in both the student bodies and in collegiate choirs, but the idea that there's a "debt" of inequality that can be repaid by shifting the balance in the other direction is wrong.

 

 

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10 hours ago, michaelwilson said:

I'm all for gender equality now in both the student bodies and in collegiate choirs, but the idea that there's a "debt" of inequality that can be repaid by shifting the balance in the other direction is wrong.

 

 

I’m relieved that there’s no debt. Thanks for putting my mind at ease.

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I don't think anyone will disagree that being a chorister or choral scholar in a cathedral or college chapel is a wonderful experience which develops a level of musical excellence that can lead to many fantastic future opportunities. Is it right in this day and age that this should be limited to boys and men only? Or that girls and woman can participate so long as they are kept separate from the boys and men? I write as a father of two daughters with wonderful voices who never had opportunities that would have been available to them if they had been born male.

I agree that a well trained boys voice is a beautiful thing to listen to, but so is a well trained girls voice or woman's voice, as well as man's voice. We should remember that, even without girls and women, the sound of choir now is very different from what it was 100, 200, 300 and more years ago. Repertoire, organs, music and singing styles as well as the liturgy are continually evolving and choirs have and will evolve as well.

I welcome the inclusion of girls and women at St John's and I think the decision to form a mixed choir is bold and forward looking.

For those that haven't read it, St John's press release can be found here: https://www.sjcchoir.co.uk/news/girls-and-women-sing-members-choir-st-john’s


 

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3 hours ago, Choir Man said:

Is it right in this day and age that this should be limited to boys and men only? Or that girls and woman can participate so long as they are kept separate from the boys and men?

What is wrong with having separate boys' and girls' top lines? Mrs Humana has four nieces (as well as a nephew) who as kids sang in single-sex top lines in cathedral choirs and they were deprived of nothing. One of them is now in the choir at Merton and another sang in the various first-rate choirs of Wells Cathedral School. 

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This subject cropped up yesterday on a ‘Christian’ blog where similar comments about inequality were being made.  But on delving, I found that The Times reported in December 2019 that the girl choristers in English cathedrals then actually outnumbered the boys - by two!  Of course that might have changed by now.  I’m not sure that some of the above comments are up to speed.  This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the girls’ choir founded by Richard Seal at Salisbury Cathedral.  After a bit of a gap - after all, it was considered revolutionary at the time - other cathedrals followed suit.  Most, if not all, now have a girls’ choir, and one or two are mixed and have been for some time, so there has been no lack of opportunity for girls in recent years.  Of course they have to pass the auditions just as much as the boys, but the 2019 figures suggested that they had achieved numerical parity then.

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32 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

This subject cropped up yesterday on a ‘Christian’ blog where similar comments about inequality were being made.  But on delving, I found that The Times reported in December 2019 that the girl choristers in English cathedrals then actually outnumbered the boys - by two!  Of course that might have changed by now.  I’m not sure that some of the above comments are up to speed.  This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the girls’ choir founded by Richard Seal at Salisbury Cathedral.  After a bit of a gap - after all, it was considered revolutionary at the time - other cathedrals followed suit.  Most, if not all, now have a girls’ choir, and one or two are mixed and have been for some time, so there has been no lack of opportunity for girls in recent years.  Of course they have to pass the auditions just as much as the boys, but the 2019 figures suggested that they had achieved numerical parity then.

The lack of equality of opportunity is not just about numbers of places in cathedral and Oxbridge college choirs. It’s about the ranking of those places in terms of the institutions that are most likely to launch their former choristers into musical careers at the highest level. The “strike rate” for choristers from Kings, St Pauls, New College, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral is, I’m almost certain, much higher than from, say (and I mean no disrespect), Derby (my home town), Ely, Truro, Carlisle.

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  • 1 month later...

Not loads to add to this, except to say that John's sounded stunning on the radio for Advent Sunday yesterday.  The Anglican choral tradition is not dead yet, and it's in good hands there.  The new developments are very exciting; to allow girls to access that level of inspiring and transporting musicianship is only going to bring even more good things. I cant wait to hear it!

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22 hours ago, SomeChap said:

Not loads to add to this, except to say that John's sounded stunning on the radio for Advent Sunday yesterday.  The Anglican choral tradition is not dead yet, and it's in good hands there.  The new developments are very exciting; to allow girls to access that level of inspiring and transporting musicianship is only going to bring even more good things. I cant wait to hear it!

Having been a chorister at St John's centuries ago I absolutely go with adding girls - it is the right thing to do in this day and age and can only benefit the choir. Andrew Nethsingha is an absolute master at getting the sound he wants.

The Advent carol service was truly amazing - especially as Andrew wasn't there having tested positive and the top line was down to 10 boys. The organ scholar, George Herbert conducted and Joseph Wicks came in at the last minute to play the organ. Wonderful stuff!

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