In a Season of Boys’ Choirs, a Question: Why No Girls?

NEW YORK TIMES: December 26, 2018

By Micheal Cooper

Christmas is like, well, Christmas for the boys’ choirs of the world.

For many in Britain, Christmas Eve this year meant tuning in to a broadcast of a lone boy chorister singing “Once in Royal David’s City” in a piercing voice, before being joined by the other boys and men of the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, which traces its history to 1441.

In Austria, the Vienna Boys Choir, which is nearly as old, sang Haydn on Christmas morning in the Imperial Chapel. Also on Tuesday morning, in Germany, the St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig, which dates back to 1212, sang the music of Bach, its former leader. And at a younger St. Thomas Church, on Fifth Avenue in New York, an esteemed choir of men and boys sang a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols to a jam-packed service on Christmas Eve.

Which leads to a question: Where were the girls?

That has reverberated more than usual this year, ever since a British soprano, Lesley Garrett, wrote an article this month calling on King’s College to include girls in its choir.

Of course, there are plenty of thriving coed choirs, too. Francisco J. Núñez, who founded one, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, three decades ago, recalled being asked a pointed question in its early days by the composer Ned Rorem: “He once asked me, straight up, ‘Why do you have girls singing?’”

The answer? “Because they sing just as well. And they’re committed; they come. And there are many more that want to sing. So why should I keep closing the doors on someone that wants to sing?”

Mr. Núñez said that he had had problems finding boys to join “since the beginning of time.” But by recruiting many at young ages, the chorus has been able to retain more, and is now around 45 percent boys.

Read the full article here.