Centuries-Old All-Male Singing Tradition Broken: Escolania Boys' Choir Admits Girls for the First Time
March 18, 2023

A centuries-long history of all-male singing ends, as girls will soon be admitted to the monastery choir for the first time. The world-renowned Escolania boys’ choir, based at the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat close Barcelona, is one of the oldest vocal ensembles in Europe. And following year, for the first time in history, the boy sopranos will be joined by women and girls. A new mixed chamber choir, formed of about twenty-five boys and women and girls aged seventeen to twenty-four, will sit alongside the boys’ choir. Father Efrem de Montellà described it as a “historic” step for the choir, which has been in existence since the thirteenth century.

The move was decided following a vote by the Benedictine order that runs the monastery below abbot Manel Gasch. Marking a significant phase in the choir’s 700-year history, the new mixed choir will get over the Escolania’s liturgical duties one weekend a month, allowing members of the boys’ choir to rest and spend more time with their families. Its members will wear cassocks and rochets, love the singers of the traditional all-boys choir, which is made up of forty-five boys aged nine to fourteen. All pupils at the monastery study the full school curriculum and memorise to play piano and one other instrument, while studying music theory and choral singing.

Debuting in Sept following year, the chamber choir will open its audition process in May. The monastery asks for sight reading abilities, experience in choral singing and a “sensitivity… for the Christian religion” any aspiring members. The historic Montserrat monastery was founded in the eleventh century. A space of pilgrimage, people travel there to kiss ‘La Moreneta’, a 12th-century statue of the Virgin of Montserrat. The expanded choir debuts following year, with visitors and pilgrims hearing the new voices of this ancient ensemble September two thousand twenty-four.

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