Girls' Choirs Break into UK Church Scene

Following the Church of England's decision to open its doors to women priests, women are gradually making stronger appearances in the Church.

Churches are now starting to form a girls' choir, breaking into the all-male culture in the Church. In what has been called "a quiet revolution", an increasing number of UK cathedrals are starting girl's choirs.

The latest is Ely in Cambridgeshire, where on Wednesday the cathedral girls' choir sang its first evensong. While the famous boys' choir there is 1,000 years old. Its female counterpart was formed in September.

Salisbury Cathedral led the way, starting a girls' choir in 1991, and others have followed since, including Wells, Southwark and Liverpool.

"It's not a break with tradition so much as creating a new one," says Sue Freestone, the head of King's School in Ely, who started the choir. "We're not replacing the boys' choir, we're adding to the richness and variety of musical tradition here."

"They can sing the same kind of parts as boys, but you get a fuller sound instead of that beautiful purity of a younger child's voice," says Ms Freestone.

However, not everyone welcomed the girls' choir. Alan Thurlow, the director of music at Chichester Cathedral, says he introduced girls into the all-boys parish choir.

"The end result of that was I lost the boys," he told BBC Radio 3's In Tune.

The same thing has happened in many churches and cathedrals that have tried mixed choirs. Ely have now decided to avoid an overlap of boys and girls so it won't scare off the boys.

However, Dr Peter Giles, of the Campaign for the Defence of the Traditional Cathedral Choir (CTCC), takes a different stance against girl choristers.

"We are sacrificing a wonderful, ancient tradition of men and boys' choirs for political correctness," he says. "In 1963, there were 180,000 boys singing every Sunday in parish churches. Today there's hardly a boy singing."

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