Monday, May 01, 2006

England's Disappearing Choir-boys

From the Telegraph:
There is an alarming number of empty seats in the choir stalls of Britain's cathedrals because, for the first time for centuries, too few boys want to become choristers.
Choir schools are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their places despite generous help with fees, partly because boys prefer football and computer games to the commitment of daily evensong and Sunday services.
The shortage is having a knock-on effect by depleting the pool from which lay clerks - adult male singers - are largely drawn, threatening the future of a musical tradition that has existed for more than 1,000 years, and which is the envy of Europe.
The Choir Schools' Association, which represents 44 schools attached to cathedrals, churches and college chapels, said that figures fluctuated annually, but the numbers of boys applying for each place had fallen from 2.7 in 2000 to 2.4 in 2003. The figure dropped to 1.9 last year.
Philip Moore, organist and Master of the Music at York Minster, said that they should have 24 boys but only had 20.
He said that the numbers had been hit by the decline of parish church choirs, a recruiting ground for the boy choristers needed to produce the distinctively pure sound of English cathedrals.
Church choirs have not only been hit by the falling attendance but also by evangelical clergy who have introduced "happy clappy" worship with guitars and drums.
Paul Hale, the Rector Chori at Southwell Minster, said that they had 11 boy choristers when they should have 16. "Because people don't go to church so much, they don't have the commitment, so we are not getting the flow of boys from church choirs," said Mr Hale.
England's cathedral choir schools are an interesting vestiage of the pre-Reformation time that survives in Anglicanism.

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