Listeners' perception of English cathedral girl and boy choristers

D M Howard, J Szymanski, G F Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United Kingdom, it is increasingly common to find girls in English cathedral choirs, and some appear to wonder whether they can perform this traditionally male role appropriately. We report results from a perceptual experiment designed to establish whether or not listeners can correctly identify trained girl and boy English cathedral choristers when they are singing the top lines in samples of professionally recorded sacred choral music from one cathedral choir. In the experiment, the lower three parts (alto, tenor, and bass), the musical director, and the acoustic environment remained constant. Results suggest that listeners can identify the sex of the choristers singing the top line with an average accuracy of approximately 60%, but the results also suggest that musical context plays an important part in this perceptual ability. In addition, boys are accurately identified more often than girls, and adult listeners can discriminate between the two more reliably than child listeners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalMusic perception
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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