Listener perception of girls and boys in an English Cathedral choir

D.M. Howard, J.E. Szymanski

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


The presence of girls in English cathedral choirs is becoming increasingly commonplace, but there are those who believe that they are unable to carry out this role appropriately in this traditionally male dominated arena. It is suggested by some that girls are unable to produce a sound that is in keeping with the musical traditions of the choral sung divine offices. The aim of this paper is to explore whether or not listeners can tell the difference between the blended sound of boys and girls in a cathedral musical context. A perceptual experiment was conducted to determine the extent to which listeners can tell whether boy or girl choristers were singing the top line in snippets from professional English cathedral choir recordings where the lower three parts and the acoustic environment remained essentially constant. Overall, the results suggest that listeners can tell the difference between girls and boys and that this difference has statistical significance. In addition, the data indicates that this ability improves with age and that girls are more accurate than boys. It is also clear from the data that identification abilities vary between some of the musical settings selected as stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2000

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