"A boy sings ... a beautiful thing."

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Dear Friends,

In months gone by, we have occasionally touched on the various raisons d'Ítre for boychoir and for traditional choirs of men and boys (although for obvious reasons the arguments concerning the two main types are not always applicable to both).

We cannot rely solely on "tradition." Just because boys were the instrument Bach used for his church cantatas is not enough reason to use boys only when singing those works.

We cannot continue to validate the misogynous policies of the ecclesiastical tradition without bringing down heaps of scorn from the majority social opinion.

Even arguing the "separate but equal" line earns more scowls than smiles.

I think there is a good parallel to use, that is applicable to both community boychoir and the traditional Anglican male choir. I call it:

Candles and Choirboys

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Throughout history, candles have been used to provide a light resource for civilization's benefit. No one, until a century ago, thought that candles would someday be replaced by brilliant halogen and incandescent lights that we now take for granted. Yet we, having all those choices, still return to candles, when the mood strikes. Candles shed a light that electric lights cannot replicate: soft, warm, unchallenging to the eyes. Modern electric light sources have their predominate place in our lives, but candles, and the singular joy they bring, should not be lost to future civilization, but celebrated for their uniqueness.

Throughout history, choirboys have been used to provide a reliable resource for the church's benefit. No one, until about 1750, thought that choristers would someday be replaced by women, whom we now take for granted (as well as girls). Yet we, having these choices, still return to choirboys, when the mood strikes. Choirboy voices produce a sound that women cannot and should not replicate: the ability to scale the heights without strain, to deliver, purely and without guile, the sacred texts as well as the simple folk song. Women have taken their predominate place in choral life, but choirboys, and the serendipitous joy their singing brings, should never be legislated, regulated or banished, but cherished, celebrated and maintained for the edification and joy of future generations.

Douglas Neslund
Director (retired)
California Boys' Choir

Copyright © 2002 Douglas Neslund

Copyright © 2002 boychoirs.org
This page was last modified on 02 September 2004