Research on changing voices has been slow to impact on choral practice in the UK, though with the higher levels of conductor education and training generally found in the US, things have moved faster there.
The growing use of trained singing teachers in English cathedrals is having a noticeable impact on the choirs. Boys often leave at younger ages as a result of greater knowledge of vocal health and voice change, with more attention being paid to child protection and welfare than in the past. This is quite frequently wrongly attributed to “early puberty”. It remains a topic I write and lecture about and my work has been quite widely reported in the UK press (not always accurately!) I was asked to write this article for Cathedral Voice in order to put the record straight after some particularly “imaginative” newspaper reporting.
In terms of actual choral practice, the impact of my own research in the UK is mostly seen in the growing UK Cambiata choral movement. A particularly strong example is Cambiata: The Emerging Voice in Cornwall. You can read about their exciting work here and in my book Contemporary Choral Work with Boys.
In the North West of England an enthusiastic group of teachers, all members of the Association of British Choral Directors, have been running Cambiata North West (CNW) for several years since attending a training day at Blackburn Cathedral.
CNW is also featured in Contemporary Choral Work with Boys. Between seventy and a hundred boys from these schools come together three times a year for Saturday workshops and an annual concert. CNW has developed rapidly, being invited to sing in a Prom after only four years of existence! This film shows the progress of the choir during its first full year.
The workshop days and concerts are usually held at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn. If you would like to start a Cambiata group at your school or know any boys who might like to participate, please contact the organiser.
Bristol Cathedral Choir School, whilst providing the choristers for Bristol Cathedral has also been an enthusiastic user of the research, resulting in a strong impact in the Bristol area. This film shows the early days of the school setting up its own KS3 boys’ choir after I ran a boys’ singing day there.