Lesley Garrett: Girls should be allowed to sing at King’s College Carols

Singer says that the boys’ only line-up at the Christmas Eve event is “cruel” for any girls who enjoy singing and are good enough - and is a "complete anachronism"

Celebrity MasterChef contestant Lesley Garrett

For 100 years King’s College Cambridge has held a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve – with an all-male line up.

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But acclaimed opera singer Lesley Garett has called on the choir to admit girls for the first time, saying that the exclusion of one half of the population is a “complete anachronism” and a “throwback to a bygone age”.

Writing in the latest issue of Radio Times, the singer notes that the event, which is broadcast by the BBC and around the world, is performed by one of only a few male only ecclesiastical choirs – 11 at the last count – that don’t have girls singing the top line trebles. And she says that needs to change.

She writes that the best girl singers are just as good as the best boys – and even experts are not always able to tell the difference between the singing voices.

She adds: “Backward looking traditionalists argue that there’s an exclusive purity in the boy’s voice – what Benjamin Britten called the ‘tremulous beauty’ of the boys’ treble voice – but I think that’s just nonsense.

“It’s an excuse to hand on male privilege and perpetuate a dominant male gender stereotype and male power. Radio 2 has a Young Chorister Award – open to boys and girls which makes no distinction between the genders.

“Because to do so is to perpetuate a complete anachronism and a throwback to a bygone age that excluded girls on what is essentially the grounds of gender. To set a precedent of an all-male choir does seems like a cruel thing to do to a girl who adores music and loves singing and had the purity of tone that demands that she should be given a chance to win a place in a great choir like King’s.”

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: The Choir of King's College Cambridge conduct a rehearsal of their Christmas Eve service of 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols' in King's College Chapel on December 11, 2010 in Cambridge, England. The Choir was founded by King Henry VI in 1441 and is regarded as one of the world's finest choral groups. It comprises of the Conductor Stephen Cleobury, 16 choristers, who are educated on scholarships at King's College School, as well as 14 choral scholars and two organ scholars, who study a variety of subjects in the College. The choir's performance of 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols', traditionally held on Christmas Eve in King's College Chapel, was introduced in 1918 and is broadcast to millions of people around the world. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
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