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choral work with boys

When boys discover the value of it, they sing

On this page you will find research that has attempted to answer the question “why do so few boys join choirs?”  More importantly, perhaps, research that underpins the headline statement about value.  If you read any of the books, particularly the more recent ones, you will find that the key to success is in value as a reason for action. The participation level of boys is a direct reflection of the values of their leaders, be they politicians, headteachers, concert promoters or senior clergy.  It is that simple.


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Dead Composers and Living Boys: how high should boys sing in a digital age?

Now available as an open source web-book

Research papers and chapters (peer reviewed)

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Doing Voice My Way: renegotiating male vocal identity at adolescence. Routledge Encyclopaedia of  Vocal Identity. Forthcoming.

Boys Can't Sing that Good: Perceptual judgments of vocal identity by the peer groups of accomplished boy singers. Updated reprint from 2008 monograph.


Trends in young male puberty and the changing voice: new dilemmas for choir directors. Choral Journal , August 2021.


Sweet boys singing and rude boys rampaging: Revisiting Boys Keep Singing during an era of rising inequality and declining opportunity.  Sage Preprint.

First Choirs Standing: What risks were taken by choirs returning early to singing during the 2020 Covid pandemic, how were the risks managed and what were the outcomes?.  Preprint available here

Where have all the singers gone? and when will they return? Prospects for choral singing after the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, ABCD Choral Research Journal, Vol. 1 supplement.

Pitch, pedagogy and performance: demographic structure and vocal blending in an English cathedral boys' choir, ABCD Choral Research Journal, 1: 49 - 59


What Voices Have Emerged? Lessons on boys' vocal dispositions and choral tone from a new choral leaflet series  Music Education Research.    10.1080/14613808.2018.1534819

Beautiful Swansongs of English Cathedral Music: adolescence and the boy "treble" voice.  NATS Journal of Singing, 75 (2), 141 - 153.

To make again sweete musicke with the fearest voyces of England.  ABCD Yearbook, 2018, 34-37.

The English choral tradition and the secular trend in pubertal timing, International Journal of Research in Choral Singing. 4 (2), 4 – 27.  

1000 Years and 1000 Boys’ Voices: the crisis and radical challenge for boys’ singing, in U. Geisler and K. Johansson (eds),  Choral Singing: histories and practices.  Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Broken voices or a broken curriculum? the impact of research on UK school choral practice with boys. British Journal of Music Education,  30 (3),  311 – 327.  

With Mecke A-C  “Boyes are apt to change their voice at about fourteene yeeres of age”: an historical background to the debate about longevity in boy treble singers.   Research Reviews in Human Learning and Music, 1, 1 – 19.  

The Angel Enigma: experienced boy singers’ perceptual judgements of changing voices. Music Education Research  13 (3), 343 -354.  

Should I be singing this and if so, how high? boys reveal their masculinities,  In J. Adams, M. Cochrane & l. Dunne (eds) The Application of Theory to Educational Research. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

The perpetuation of hegemonic male power and the loss of boyhood innocence: case studies from the music industry.  Journal of Youth Studies 14 (1), 59 – 76.  

Technique or Testosterone? An empirical report on changes in the longevity of boy singers. , NATS Journal of Singing  November/December, 137 – 145 . Access via Questia.

Slappers who gouge your eyes: Vocal performance as exemplification of disturbing inertia in gender equality, Gender and Education, 22 (1), 47-62.  

“Real boys” don’t sing, but real boys do: the challenge of constructing and communicating acceptable boyhood, THYMOS Journal of Boyhood Studies, 4 (1), 54 – 69. Visit archive

Boyhood melancholia and the vocal projection of masculinity, THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, 2 (1), 26 – 35. Visit archive

You sing like a girl? An exploration of boyness through the treble voice, Sex Education: sexuality, society and learning, 6 (2), 193 -205.   Visit archive

The spiritual, the cultural and the religious: What can we learn from a study of boy choristers?, International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 7 (3), 257 -272.

Singing, gender and health: Perspectives from boys singing in a church choir, Health Education, 102 (4), 180 -187.

If you are having difficulty obtaining any of the above articles, you are welcome to contact me directly. 

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Sign up with the Association of British Choral Directors for training on getting and keeping boys singing, and access to abcd Choral Research Journal.

 videos, podcasts, and recordings

Vocal Stages


Four video/podcasts based on Dead Composers and Living Boys are available here.   They cover the main stages of Voice Change as identified by John Cooksey.  


Click here for the growing collection of Videocasts of chapters from Dead Composers and Living Boys.

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Contemporary Choral Work Interludes 

Contemporary Choral Work with Boys contained some "interludes" - extended case studies of boys in between chapters.  Two of  the boys, both choristers, are now young adults.  Short video documentaries were produced  when they were in their mid-teens, some time after their voices have changed.   Both films are remarkable for what they say about the years immediately after voice change.  The young men have moved on, forgotten their treble voices, and are incredulous of their former selves.

CCWB Interlude 1  Max

CCWB Interlude 1 Max

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William Web Version

William Web Version

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The original NYCGB Widening participation project with David Howard and Jenevora Williams was issued as a free DVD to schools.  Some of the films are now dated, but a selection of those still relevant can be viewed below.

Click this link or the DVD cover to go to the Boys Keep Singing legacy site.

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