Singing in the Lower Secondary School
This is an essential text on an important area of the music curriculum consistently judged weak or inadequate by school inspectors in Britain. It covers social, physiological, musical, and pedagogical aspects of young adolescent singing, with focus on Key Stage 3 (pupils aged between 11
and 14) and the progression from primary school. Grounded in extensive research and authoritatively written, it uses case studies to illustrate best practice, and introduces the principles of cambiata, a dedicated approach to the adolescent voice. Other chapters contain practical and proven advice on repertoire, technique, and the motivation of reluctant singers, boosting the confidence of teachers for whom choral work is not the main specialism.
Contemporary Choral Work With Boys
How High Should Boys Sing? (below) is a text that deals primarily with the sociological dimension of young male engagement with the singing voice. Contemporary Choral Work is mainly about the physiological. It draws on the author’s research into puberty and the timing of voice change, providing a robust response to the popular belief that the availability of good, experienced trebles is diminishing because “puberty is coming sooner”. Common myths such as the belief that puberty in the time of J.S. Bach was several years later than it is now are tackled through examination of how the sound of the treble voice changes during the period of puberty and how different choral and vocal pedagogies have attempted to keep the singing voice high whilst the speaking voice deepens. Much of this has implications for vocal health. Drawing also on the author’s research into gender and vocal identity, the book has important points to make about the potential abuse of boys’ voices and vocal identities through inappropriate choral practices. It is divided broadly into two sections: a theoretical grounding followed by case studies and exemplification of some of the best practice in boys’ choirs today.
How High Should Boys Sing: gender, authenticity and credibility in the young male voice
This book, largely based on the results of the post-doctoral monograph below, is principally a sociological study of boyhood and singing. Some technical material on voices is also included in order to make sense of the question “how high?”
The question is asked because of an all too obvious conflict between the high “angelic” chorister voice and the lower pitched “cambiata” voice. Both voices are available to boys aged around twelve or thirteen. Which should they sing in? The book tells the story of this dilemma as seen by the boys themselves – cathedral choristers, performers in treble “boy bands”, members of school and youth choirs and the all-important candid opinions and judgements of the peer group of non-singing boys in schools.
Edwin Mellen Press (http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=7481&pc=9)
This is the published post-doctoral monograph funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. There are a number of more technical chapters that are not in How High Should Boys Sing? In particular, there are the results of perceptual tests investigating masculine tone in the treble and changing voice not published elsewhere.
Women Teaching Boys: caring and working in the primary school
Written with John Lee, this book is based on detailed research in eight contrasting primary schools with Y4 and Y6 boys (aged 8/9 and 10/11) that was a response to a government “panic” about the lack of male teachers . A lack of male role models was then, as now, being cited as one of the main reasons for an alleged “problem with boys”.
What did the boys themselves think? The book is good news for female teachers! The boys liked them and saw no need to increase the number of males.
The book does not take this as a reason for maintaining the status quo of a female dominated profession – but it does look in detail at the qualities considered important in a good teacher by the boys.
These have much more to do with such things as discipline, subject knowledge, patience, humour and the ability to explain things well than gender. The book is an indictment of simplistic ideas about role modelling and rightly asks the question “what kind of men?”