The long-awaited inclusion of girls in the renowned all-boys choir of St Paul’s Cathedral will finally take place in 2025.
Following in the progressive footsteps of Salisbury Cathedral’s decision to allow girls to sing in their choir thirty-one years ago, St Paul’s Cathedral has joined ranks with York Minster, Durham, Exeter, and others in expanding their range both vocally and comprehensively.
The move to mix boys and girls in choirs of places of Anglican worship has not been without debate. Some have claimed that girls’ and boys’ voices are fundamentally different, equating it to seating oboes in the flute section. But thirty-one years after combining boy and girl choristers in St Paul’s predecessors, the proof of success is in the beauty and glory of the sounds they produce.
The 900-year-old tradition of St Paul’s exclusion of girls in the choir was met with opposition in recent years, and it became necessary to explore the possibility of change. The global pandemic resulting in a 90 percent fall in income in 2020 led to fears of permanent closure of the cathedral and any progression toward a combined choir to be put on hold—until now.
The 2025 target date is to ensure time needed to expand boarding school facilities and raise funds for scholarships. The full immersion to a combined choir is still expected to take time, with separate boys’ and girls’ lines which will perform together in major services. Andrew Carwood, director of music at St Paul’s, wishes to preserve the iconic boys-only choir, but follows that with the admission that he’d like girls to have the same experience.
Breaking from tradition in the historic all-male choir will take some adjustments for some, but girls are thrilled to be included and for their voices to be appreciated. It is far less about gender and far more about the opportunity to sing for joy.
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