A nine-year-old girl’s mum is suing a German boy’s choir because they won’t her youngster join.
The unidentified mum has hired lawyers in Berlin to argue that laws set up to tackle gender discrimination mean the choir should be forced to accept girls.
The girl, who has not been named because of local privacy laws, has previously sung with the Berlin Comic Opera and the Cathedral Singing School in Frankfurt but she was rejected twice, in 2016 and 2018, by the State and Cathedral Choir of Berlin, that was founded in 1465 by Prince-Elector Frederick II of Brandenburg.
The choir that performs regularly in Berlin cathedral and around Europe is therefore the oldest musical institution in the city, and it has previously never admitted any women.
The claim, which is being brought by the girl’s mother, says it breaches the equal opportunities law, especially given that the organisation is publicly funded with cash from the German University of the Arts (UdK) to provide training to 250 choirboys and 75 young men all aged under 25.
The choir have not commented publicly on the matter, but are arguing in court that the girl was not rejected because of her gender, but because her voice did not “match the desired sound characteristics necessary for a boys’ choir”. Lawyers for the girl however claim this in itself is discriminatory. It has long been argued that prepubescent boys can reach a standard with their voice that most girls cannot match.
However, arguments have been put forward that this is no longer a valid argument, with the British soprano Lesley Garrett recently saying all-male choirs were a “throwback to a bygone era” and calling for an end to the no-girls policy at places such as the choir of King’s College Cambridge. He said: “Girls’ voices are just as pure, just as sweet and just as sonorous”.
The mother of the nine-year-old girl believes that the quality of training available at the boy’s choir is the best and argues that she would not have received the same standard, for example, at the all-female partner choir at the Berlin Singakademie.
Berlin lawyer Susann Bracklein said in December that it was not the case that girls cannot sing as well as boys, saying they could sing “every bit as well as boys”.
She said that in her contact with the Dean of the Faculty of Music of the Berlin University of Arts, Reinhard Schaefertoens, he had made it clear. He wrote: “A girl can never sing in a boy’s choir, the way a clarinettist would never be able to play a string quartet.”
Berlin musicologist Ann-Christine Mecke meanwhile sided with both when she said: “you can consider boys’ voices in the same way you consider an instrument with certain sound characteristics”. She added that research had shown there were differences in the voices of boys and girls which were both audible and measurable, but added that the difference were nevertheless “smaller than many claim”.
The move could have far-reaching consequences for all traditional all-male choirs such as the Vienna Boy’s Choir which would then also be forced to consider girls. The Vienna Boys’ Choir was founded in 1498. The Vienna Girl’s Choir was founded in 2004.
The Ananova page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.