A Single Sex Chorus Does Have a Place

In recent times there’s been a discussion centering on the idea that single-sex choruses are not very politically correct. There might be something to the argument if the funding for a chorus is coming from the public pocket, but unless there is no misappropriation of funds concerned, why would we not allow the single-sex chorus its place in the world?

Music is written for something

When Leonard Bernstein wrote the renowned Chichester Psalms he set it for mixed voice or male voice and boy soprano and orchestra.The piece was commissioned by Walter Hussey the Dean of Chichester Cathedral in England, and so the designation of male voice makes some sense. At the time cathedral choirs would be men and boys.

Nevertheless, Bernstein composed it in the traditional SATB setting (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass) as he clearly envisaged it being performed in a concert setting. Nonetheless, he very specifically stated the solo was a boy soprano.

What he was looking for was the sound that comes from a young voice before it had broken. He wanted the clear tone, the lack of vibrato and the pureness of a young voice.

Today we would acknowledge a young girl can produce the same sound and would allow the part to be sung by either sex. The point is not the sex or even the age. The point is the sound created. The young voice has the ability to deliver the sense of inexperience and of naivety which an adult voice can’t deliver.

There is a place for transposing

Music can be transposed from two to four-part harmony or from instrument to instrument. Musicians who feel there is a lack of solo music for their instrument frequently transpose something from a similar range.

But that doesn’t remove the argument that says it is legitimate to produce music in the way it was envisaged and in the way your group performs it.

A choir has a sound all its own

It might seem obvious to say that choruses sound like they do – but actually what it means is, that they can take on a repertoire that is different. Adding women allows the vocal range to go up an octave, it changes the music.

An all-women chorus would have difficulty reaching the notes the Bass 2’s sing. The music just wouldn’t work unless someone transposed it. Music specifically written to be sung by children’s choirs would sound odd if were sung by adults.

Today’s music world

In the world of music and singing, we are at a time where there are so many creative outlets that they idea that all choruses should have all singers is a little nit-picky. If this chorus doesn’t suit you there are plenty of others that will.

To argue that male voice, female voice, children’s voice choruses should let anyone in, is to miss the point. The voice is an instrument and you can choose the band instruments.