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Choirgirls overtake boys in cathedrals for first time in history

by Heather Preston

The balance of male and female singers in English cathedral choirs has shifted for the first time in a millennium.

Boys are thought to have dominated the stage since the tradition began in the 10th century at Wells Cathedral in Somerset, with Salisbury Cathedral being the first to buck the trend in 1991 when it began admitting girl choristers.

Latest church statistics have revealed females have now overtaken their male counterparts.

Figures show there are now 739 girl choristers and 737 boys in Church of England cathedrals.

These numbers are in stark contrast to 2002 data which shows over 62 per cent of choristers were boys.

The trend of male choir members has decreased over the past four years in particular as more cathedrals have sought to address the imbalance and encourage more females to join.

According to The Times, Truro Cathedral began admitting girls for the first time in 2015. 

Musical director Rev Chris Gray told the Times the choral tradition goes back to when "men were priests, men were monks and men sang in choirs".

"But we now not only have girls singing top parts but also girls singing alto parts in choirs," he said.

Some have raised concerns over the loss of the all-male tradition as it offers a unique space for boys to sing.

Thirty-nine of the 42 Anglican churches across England now have mixed gender choirs.

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