Moving from a women and men schola to boys and men
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,131
    The next 6 months will be a great transition for my work. i have already have boys singing but they will become the treble line with men. If you have any experiences with this, please to let me know.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • May your good work be blessed, and bear rich fruit!
  • WGS
    Posts: 265
    I recall that there was a problem of scheduling rehearsals especially for the boys. Some boys were in the parish school and participated in a music class. I believe others were in various public or private schools and met some afternoon(s). The ATB men rehearsed on an evening which would not have been appropriate for keeping the boys out so late. I recall the extraordinary schedule of having Saturday morning rehearsals for the men and boys to sing together. - often with individual boys garbed for football or baseball, etc.

    Of course, there is an annual expectation of losing a quarter or so of the choir - probably the most talented. Some continue as ATB with the men. Some gravitate to sports, etc.

    The boys, especially the older and more competent boys thoroughly enjoyed knowing that we adults could not function without their treble voices.

    For a given Sunday or concert occasion, it is a fact that half or more of the boys could have stayed home. The sound would not have been diminished, but... look out for next year. You need those nine year olds in the pipeline.

    ... and watch out for flu season or whatever is going around! It will hit them all.

    Best wishes and prayers for you and your venture!
  • Forgive me for asking, but how is this considered "progress"?
    Thanked by 2NihilNominis Elmar
  • Schönbergian, you realize that by posing this question you're going to ignite a 15 page thread on TLS and women in choirs, yes?
  • Trenton,

    The cultivation of boy singers is important for the proper training of adult male singers.

    [I think I'm a little short of 15 pages, but ... oh, well.]
  • Elmar
    Posts: 382
    [I think I'm a little short of 15 pages, but ... oh, well.]
    I can add two lines if you wish:
    - Make sure that the women who have to leave agree that this a progress.
    - Be prepared that this may not be easy (especially if someone like my mother is around).

  • The employment of trebles exclusively will always lead to a large gulf in vocal quality and timbre between the soprano section and the remainder of the choir—which is partially why non-English choirs resorted to the use of boy altos rather than countertenors, to bridge the chasm somewhat. (The use of countertenors outside the English cathedral repertoire by many "period performance" groups today is actually a historical anachronism.) I find this less desirable in polyphonic repertoire that calls for three or more essentially equal parts. At Saint Michael's Choir School, where I was trained, this was further "smoothed out" through the employment of adolescent rather than adult voices, who would have presented an even greater contrast in quality and volume. I understand this is the situation in much of Germany as well. By contrast, the female head voice blends much better with the male from F4 upwards due to its rounder quality, while still retaining the inherent brightness of that register. The insurmountable difficulty, if you are employing adult tenors and basses, is that the artistry of a fourteen-year-old (if the voice has not changed even earlier than that) will always be less developed than that of an adult singer, if for no other reason than time. As a thirteen-year-old treble I had not even scratched the surface of musical expression compared to my ability at sixteen, to say nothing of where I am now at twenty-two. In my mind, these are all reasons to train trebles alongside adult female sopranos of proper tonal quality, with either voice's qualities being supplanted by the other's.

    Paedagogically, while the training of trebles is important to securing a body of adult male singers, I would argue that it is more important to teach the retention of the falsetto register through adolescence to adulthood, as literally 50% of a properly built voice. I sometimes wonder if the excessive brightness and "edge" in some British male singers is a result of viewing falsetto and "modal" voice as two entirely separate entities in their choir training, when they are two sides of the same coin and must always be knit together for the voice to function optimally.

    All this being said, I believe that a genuine all-male choir of some kind is (and was, for me) a great antidote against the perception that singing is not a male activity. However, I would never cultivate such a dynamic at the expense of female participation at any parish, but only in addition to it.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,611
    Are you maintaining a polyphonic choir with the female singers?
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,131
    For the record, I have girls and will add the women to them. My girls sing very well. My boys sing very well. Adding men to them is "progress".
  • stulte
    Posts: 313
    May God bless this work of yours abundantly kevinf!
  • My only experience with this is being the first woman to sing with our men’s schola this turning it into a lower voice mixed schola.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • I am not opposed to women singing in SATB choirs. When well led and inspired they seem, at times, to open up the very heavens themselves, There is no end to the beauties of the women's voice - crystalline and pure as the finest boy's voice - others are rich, deep, and floating or penetrating as any.

    Boys and men (and male altos or countertenors) comprise the almost cerebral sound - It comes from them been a 'male consort' which has no equal when at its best.

    I think that something similar, but, different, could come about be from choirs of women and girls. Such would be greatly appreciated on our musical scenes.

    It is the blending of like unto like that give men & boy, or women $ girls their own inherently blended and like unto like sound when cultivated with care to sing in performance

    This is not at all an argument against SATB choirs. We all know that they, too, have a very unique and heavenly sound when cultivated with care.We know this from groups such as the Tallis Singers, or the highly distilled Hilliard ensemble, and on the way the very large Huddlesfield to Mormon Tabernacle choirs.There is nothing like hearing hundreds, even thousands of people sing and pull of Spem, or Welsh hymnody
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,400
    'Like unto like' suggests to me adults with adults. Vive la différence, of course, but the men-falsettists-boys Anglican choir is more to be savored as a broken consort.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Having sixteen boys with four of each other section, and the habitually bright English altos and tenors (with an almost complete lack of head voice development in the latter) alongside the round, unmannered tone of boy sopranos has never felt "like unto like" to me. One can hardly refer to it as equal any more than a piano quartet could be seen as four "equal" instruments, "like unto like". But if you have very developed, mature trebles who can stand on their own as solo musicians alongside properly trained male voices who are equal in number and volume to the trebles and match their tone throughout their entire range, then it would indeed be a glorious ensemble to witness.

    The English choral sound/concept is entirely born out of practical/economic necessity and, in my opinion, does not even work in English church music (as English organs are invariably inferior to continental organs even in English organ music). It is the high artistic accomplishment of English cathedral choirs juxtaposed with the musical poverty of much of the rest of the world that has led to the idolization of this sound (and, as mentioned above, the application of it to unrelated fields, such as every period performance choir fetishizing countertenors in every genre when they were an exclusively English phenomenon)

    The problem, of course, with all-female ensembles is that they are sonically incapable of operating on their own. The male bass voice provides both the necessary range and colour, rich in overtones, to serve as a harmonic foundation for upper voices. The comparatively scarce female contralto cannot serve the same purpose in the ensemble, as the clarinet could never replace the bassoon in the wood-wind choir, and accompaniment by organ or orchestra is therefore required to achieve a satisfying acoustic.
  • The problem, of course, with all-female ensembles is that they are sonically incapable of operating on their own. The male bass voice provides both the necessary range and colour, rich in overtones, to serve as a harmonic foundation for upper voices.


    Not entirely. Vivaldi made it work. You just need women who are actual contraltos who can sing the low notes.

    https://youtu.be/2JPkCfvhuyM

    This only goes down to a low A2. The lady who sings bass can actually sing down to a C1.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Liam
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,744
    Following on SponsaChristi's post, here is a more detailed and very interesting look at (low) women's voices and female vocal ranges, with a superb reading of Vivaldi by all women's voices (and instrument players) at the beginning:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujXYRmGJgTs

    Thanked by 2tomjaw sdtalley3
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,393
    There are women who can sing bass pretty fully. Unusual, yes, but can be a beautiful sound.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    The English choral sound/concept is entirely born out of practical/economic necessity and, in my opinion, does not even work in English church music (as English organs are invariably inferior to continental organs even in English organ music).


    I wouldn't say that. I have heard some pretty spectacular English organs and love the way they sound. A unique sound with no German influences. A good thing.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,744
    Those who knew Margaret Hillis (conductor, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra chorus) might wel recall her incredibly deep voice. I loved her voice when I studied conducting with her 40 years ago. I also sang under another low-voiced female conductor (more or a baritone, but still quite low) of the Oratorio Society of Charlottesville-Albemarle (Virginia).
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,744
    It's interesting to note that G.F. Handel scored the role of Solomon in his oratorio of the same name for an alto - although it is often sung by a baritone.
  • I was curious about Margaret Hills’ voice so I went looking for a video.
    https://csoarchives.wordpress.com/tag/margaret-hillis/
    That’s deep.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    The problem is that we just don't have the voices of prior centuries: Boy's voices now break much sooner; the high tenors who sang the Altus parts seem to have disappeared; and castrati have been gone from theatre and church for over 100 years (not that that is something that should be revived!). No matter what forces are used, compromises will have to be made for all repertoire, except, perhaps, the most recent.
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,611
    @salieri

    I am NOT starting a castrati school.
    Thanked by 3CCooze tomjaw Carol
  • the high tenors who sang the Altus parts seem to have disappeared
    This has more to do with the sad state of vocal pedagogy and the improper classification of tenors than anything. Any properly trained tenor should have no issue with those parts.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Carol
    Posts: 700
    I have heard a counter tenor at a college near me and was astonished at the beauty of his tone. I hadn't looked at my program before the singing began and I kept looking trying to notice who was singing. I don't recall the piece, but it was a great way to be introduced to the sound of the counter tenor. Also, does anyone else recall a PDQ Bach piece referencing a "bargain counter tenor?"
  • Francis,

    Couldn't you look to either Catholics in public life or journalists or a fair percentage of bishops for your castrati?
    Thanked by 2CCooze francis
  • the high tenors who sang the Altus parts seem to have disappeared
    This has more to do with the sad state of vocal pedagogy and the improper classification of tenors than anything. Any properly trained tenor should have no issue with those parts.


    Is that why I, a female choral tenor, classified as contralto, can sing the alto lines of Renaissance polyphony whereas the other women have issues with the low notes, but regular alto lines of modern choral music feel like they sit mostly in a very uncomfortable place (it’s easier to sing soprano sometimes)?
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,131
    This thread was about looking for help with the transition. I did not ask for your opinion regarding all male choirs, the unruly behaviors of boys or male altos. I am appalled at the attitudes regarding this question.

    Those are all good questions but they are not germane to my question. I ask the moderator to sink this thread for its uselessness.
    Thanked by 1DavidWilde
  • Kevin,

    If a transition is absolutely necessary, I would follow the principle that whatever new arises must come from forms already existing: start by introducing a small number of female singers, not by giving the boys their pink slips.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,744
    Um, boys are not being phased out, Chris. They will be singing with men, whilst girls will be moved to sing with women.
  • Charles,

    Ok., I'm clumsy. The advice, however, flips around relatively well: don't give people pink slips. Job transfers are a different thing entirely.