Can Boys' Choirs Survive?

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The angelic voices of boys' choirs have been celebrated for millennia, but in recent years, choirs have been hit hard by sex abuse scandals and declining revenues. Findings from a Danish study cited this week in The Telegraph have brought to light another stumbling block: that boys are increasingly hitting puberty at younger ages. The study suggests that boys' choirs will be losing treble singers faster than ever before.

In this week's Arts File on WQXR, WNYC's Kerry Nolan interviews two choir directors about the study's findings: Lorna Myers, who has directed boys' choirs in her native Trinidad and now directs a youth ensemble called the Young Voices of Harlem, and Robert Ridgell, who is the director of the youth choir at the Trinity Wall Street Church in Manhattan.


Lorna Myers and Robert Ridgell

Hosted by:

Kerry Nolan

Produced by:

Julia Furlan

Comments [3]

a g from n j

it is not the excess calories or weight so much that are changing the voices. it's the composition of the food. hormonally laced "everything" . chemicals in the enviornment that affect endocrine systems,leading to to premature puberty. we live in a chemical stew,that affects everything. yes,puberty rates also.

Oct. 21 2010 06:28 PM
a g from n j

i feel so sad over the harlem boys choir being shut down. i can't believe that a sex scandal, can shut the operation in and of itself. i am in no way making light of that.
i do think that there are underhanded political motivations behind this. not that it was of necessity caused by these people;but that they utilized and shamelesly exploited the situation created by the molestations[true or alledged],to move swiftly and severely into a rush to shut the school down without consideration to the bigger perspectives,and needs of the children. does this smell like gentrification? to me yes. does columbia univ. have something to do with it? i would not bet agaisnt that being so.

Oct. 21 2010 06:09 PM
Michael L.Bower from Rockville Centre, New York


Thank you so much for this piece on boys choirs. I've had the privelege of directing the St. Agnes Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys since 1992. Before that, I was the assistant director and trained the probationary group of the trebles. Presently, I have 40 unchanged voices, 10 boys in high school and college/adult men. Since we are an SATB choir, we have the luxary of keeping the changed voices through high school-and some marvelous basses and tenors they have become! A number have gone on to be professional singers and teachers.

It is more difficult to attract boys to the choir these days and I've written articles for ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) about how to make a boys choir successful. A book will come out at some point!

Voice changing varies. I've had boys in 6th grade with changed voices and other who have stayed treble to 9th grade.

I've actully just founded another boys choir! Each school was asked to recommend their very top singing boy for this choir and I have 30 really marvelous new singers in addition to the cathedral choir of 62 singers.

A director must maintain the greatest of integrity when training boys choir (any choir for that matter) At least one parent is required to be present at all times and there must be at least two boys present under any circumstances. This maintains a comfort level for everyone.

Interesting, one of my choristers from Garden City is a vegetarian so he does not get the hormones in the beef. He's in 8th grade and a wonderful soprano, so let's see how long it lasts.

We'll host Mainz Cathedral Boys choir next year-they'll be bringing 60 boys!

Long Live Boys Choir-The most enchanting sound on earth!

Michael L. Bower
St. Agnes Cathedral Music
Rockville Centre, New York

Oct. 17 2010 10:04 PM

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