Girl choristers are to be admitted to Truro Cathedral from next September, the cathedral’s governing chapter has announced. The search to recruit 20 girl choristers aged 13-18 will begin this autumn.
The successful girl choristers will be educated at Truro School, and will have 25 per cent of their fees paid by scholarships. There may also be the possibility of supplementing this with a means-tested bursary.
When the girl choristers take their place in the choir stalls in 2015, they will sing two to three services a week with the men, including alternate Sundays. Currently the 18 boy choristers sing six services, and in September next year this commitment will drop to four or five a week.
Admitting girls to the cathedral choir fulfils a long-held ambition of Truro’s chapter, and its director of music, Christopher Gray. In an interview with Choir & Organ magazine last year marking the 125th anniversary of the founding of its choir, Gray said there was great willingness in principle to accept girl choristers but the financial climate wasn’t right. Now he says the partnership with Truro School has enabled this vision to be realised.
‘We said that if we were going to admit girls, true equality would come by offering them the same support package as the boys,’ Gray explained. ‘In terms of their commitment, we looked at what was right for us here in Cornwall and concluded that girls would benefit most from a scholarship when they were slightly older. For boys that opportunity comes earlier because of when their voices start to break. The boys will still take the lion’s share of the weekday services but anything more prominent the girls will share too. And regardless of who’s singing, they’ll be known as Truro Cathedral Choir.’
Truro joins the growing number of cathedrals which admit girl choristers, ever since Salisbury took the plunge in 1991. The trend has attracted its critics, including the Campaign for the Traditional Cathedral Choir. ‘We very much hope that the new girl choristers at Truro will be introduced in a manner which doesn’t damage the cathedral’s outstanding historic traditional all-male choir in any way,’ said Lynda Collins from the campaign. ‘Girls ought to be allowed to develop their own tradition rather than simply becoming a mere imitation of the boys.’