how High? - the sequel
My ground breaking book, How High Should Boys Sing? was published ten years ago. Much of it is still as relevant as the day it was published, but an amazing amount of new research has been undertaken and published in peer-reviewed journals since then, to say nothing of new choirs that have started and developments in others. Perhaps a second edition of How High might have been a solution, but a better plan is to keep the original and publish a sequel! Dead Composers and Living Boys is that sequel and it's currently in preparation. This page is a work-in-progress.
Understanding the relationship between long dead composers and boys alive today is the key that unlocks our understanding of what boys might value about opportunities to sing. This heavily autobiographical chapter looks at my own journey from disciple of Matthew Arnold to pragmatic advocate.
Much has been written about the underachievement of boys. It is possible to see boys' absence from singing as an example of underachievement, part of "the problem with boys". A second largely autobiographical chapter looks at why so many boys avoid joining choirs and concludes that if there is a problem, it is not with boys.
The popular misconception that a boy's voice "breaks" when he "hits puberty" has long been discounted by those with knowledge. This chapter looks at the facts about puberty and voice, and points out that voices change both before and after puberty. Boys and their teachers are not the hapless victims of biology. There is more than one answer to how high a boy should sing.
Were there really boy choristers in the year 597? Boys who lived a thousand years before the majority of dead composers? This chapter will provide a much needed critique of the "perceptual stereotype" of the English boy chorister. It draws on evidence of how boys might have sung in the past and argues that historically informed performance might challenge cherished notions.
An "elite" chorister is the vocal equivalent of an "elite" athlete -one who is dedicated through rigorous daily training, frequent performance and preparation for major, high profile events. This chapter will look at boys who fall into that category, the kind of singing they do, and the impact of their singing regime on their voices.
Amateur singers are every bit as important as professional singers. This chapter will look at boys in school and community choirs who might attend one rehearsal per week and give perhaps one concert per term. The less-intensive regime results in a different journey through voice change. It is the journey taken by the majority.
In a growing number of places, girls now sing where once there were only boys. The passion generated reflects the significance of the change. A cool, dispassionate analysis is needed and this chapter will provide it.
"Only the best is good enough for a child, only art of intrinsic value" wrote Zoltan Kodaly. Are dead composers the only ones capable of providing it? Of course not! This chapter will look at some living composers who have endeavoured to provide the best for boys.