Girls to sing in Canterbury Cathedral for first time

Published 10 January 2014  |  
Canterbury Cathedral

The addition of 16 girls will mark the end of the male-only choir at Canterbury Cathedral when they perform during Evensong on January 25.

Dressed in purple cassocks and white surplices, they will break a tradition more than a millennium old.

Quoted in the Guardian, 15-year-old Ellen Spurling, from Pett Bottom, near Canterbury said: "It is all a completely new experience … I have not done anything like it. We have had choral arrangements at school but nothing like this."

The rehearsal was memorable, she said, but "to be able to sing like you have seen boys do, in the choir stalls, will be amazing".

Lynsey Spurling, Ellen's mother, said: "She has always loved singing, although there's no musicality in the family. She is very modest. She can do all sorts of things with her voice and I think she has realised quite early that this is something quite special. She has dabbled with the piano, she has dabbled with the guitar but it is her voice that is her forte."

The move comes two decades after Salisbury Cathedral became the first cathedral in England to have a girls' choir. Since their group's creation in 1994, they have been on performance tours in Italy and Austria.

Salisbury's example has been followed so enthusiastically that there are now 765 girls in cathedral choirs all across England, compared with 1,008 boys.

The change at Canterbury is not as revolutionary as Salisbury. Boys will still take centre stage and will be younger. Their age range is 8 to 13 whereas the girls are 12 to 18. Also, unlike the Salisbury girls' choir, who share the services equally with the boys, the Canterbury girls' "voluntary" choir will only take services when the boys' choir, which is made up of boarders from St Edmund's school, are away on any of their twice termly breaks.

A cathedral spokesman said in the Guardian: "The boys are practising every day and singing every day. The girls are starting off from scratch. We don't want anyone making comparisons between the two or girls feeling they have not got up to the same standard. They are practising once a week for one-and-a-half hours. It is not a long time."

David Newsholme, the girls' choir director, said in the Guardian that the standard and enthusiasm among the 40 girls who auditioned in November had been "incredibly high", adding, "This is a very exciting time for the cathedral and for these very talented young ladies."

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