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Thread: When women started to sing in sacred works?

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    Senior Member JSBach85's Avatar
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    Default When women started to sing in sacred works?

    I don't know if this question is strictly under Music Theory. As far as I know, in Renaissance Polyphony and Baroque (JS Bach) sacred works were performed / sung by male choirs with children (choral works such as masses) for higher voices and women were not allowed at least in sacred works.

    In which period of History women started / were allowed to sing in sacred choral works?

    Thank you in advance.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    What, they're starting to let women sing in choirs? What's the world coming to?

    I don't have an actual answer for you, but the tradition seems to have survived well into the 20thc. The Catholic church in which I was temporarily brainwashed and psychologically abused had a great choir. It was all male.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Feb-03-2018 at 19:23.

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    Senior Member RICK RIEKERT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSBach85 View Post
    In which period of History women started / were allowed to sing in sacred choral works?
    From the middle of the 2nd century, some church leaders sponsored the singing of women and girls in liturgical choirs. Clement of Alexandria established an official status for girl singers. He praised "the daughters of God, the fair lambs who celebrate the holy rites of the word, raising a sober choral chant." By the 4th century girl choirs had become a well-established institution. During the 4th and 5th centuries many of the Church Fathers mention the beautiful choral singing of women. St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan was particularly delighted by the effects produced by the different timbre of male and female voices-the men having a choir with their own leader and the women having a choir with a woman conductor.
    Last edited by RICK RIEKERT; Feb-03-2018 at 21:21.

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    Women have always sung in choirs, at least in convents--which goes back to Hildegard von Bingen, and long before, as Rick points out.

    But that's an interesting question--when did the male-dominated Catholic church first begin to endorse or encourage or carry out the gruesome practice of male castration, so that males could sing the high parts? and when did the Catholic church stop castrating males, or accepting castrated males into their choirs? Isn't that, more or less, what your question boils down to?

    As the Catholic church was largely founded upon Saint Paul's teachings, who said that women should remain silent in the church.

    Though I don't know if the Catholic Church was behind the origin of the Elizabethan (Protestant?) law that declared women weren't allowed to act on the public stage, which seems to have later spilled over onto the operatic stage? During Elizabeth's reign, writing for the common theater was also considered too lowly a profession for noblemen as well.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Feb-03-2018 at 23:11.

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    Victor Redseal
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    As far as I know, the Catholic Church didn't permit to sing until about 1958 but only away from the altar. The Canterbury Cathedral did not have a female choir until 2014. I don't know when the Lutheran Church started permitting women to sing.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    But that's an interesting question--when did the male-dominated Catholic church first begin to endorse or encourage or carry out the gruesome practice of male castration, so that males could sing the high parts? and when did the Catholic church stop castrating males, or accepting castrated males into their choirs? Isn't that, more or less, what your question boils down to?
    That isn't really what the question boils down to. Boy sopranos were perfectly competent to sing the higher parts, as my brother did in his youth. When their voices broke (and they got control over them again) they were just sent over to the tenor and bass sections — not generally castrated. The practice of castration for this purpose was real, of course, but wasn't it primarily to produce featured soloists, not choristers? More research is needed …
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Feb-05-2018 at 16:46.

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    would you clowns stop with this "male-dominated Catholic Church" crappola? You are dead wrong about the origins of the Castrati. If I remember right, the practice found its way to Italy during the crusades. I think you should really brush up on your history before you go saying a lot of really offensive things about my Church.

    would you talk that way to a Muslim?

    and BTW, I hope I did not offend any actual circus or rodeo clowns. Those guys are the salt of the Earth

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    Senior Member RICK RIEKERT's Avatar
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    The practice of castrating young boys, usually between the ages of 7 and 12, to preserve the unbroken male voice, can be dated back to the church choirs of early medieval Constantinople, and to 12th century Spain. The fact that these singers had been castrated was often concealed because the practice was almost always censured by the Church. Nevertheless, a small number of castrati continued to sing in churches scattered across Europe.

    It was not until the 16th century in Italy that the castration of boys to serve church choirs effectively became an industry. Sixtus V sanctioned their use in a papal bull of 1589, although there is evidence pointing to the existence of castrati in the Vatican before they were officially sanctioned. Because women were banned from the Vatican church choirs, limitations had been imposed on composers of polyphonic choral music when it came to supplying alto and soprano vocal parts. When the development of polyphony made music complex and difficult to master, the limitations of boy sopranos became obvious. Just when they developed the skill to handle the music, their voices changed. Falsettists were often used, but composers and choir masters alike often complained about the quality of the voices. The proposed solution: Castrati.

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