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17 March 2023, 11:32 | Updated: 17 March 2023, 11:40
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 near Barcelona, is one of the oldest vocal ensembles in Europe.
And next 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 25 boys and women and girls aged 17 to 24, 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 13th century.
SEO Metadatastion. We follow a tradition that we would like to continue but we also realise we have to respond to demand.”
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The move was decided following a vote by the Benedictine order that runs the monastery under abbot Manel Gasch.
Marking a significant phase in the choir’s 700-year history, the new mixed choir will take 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, like the singers of the traditional all-boys choir, which is made up of 45 boys aged nine to 14.
All pupils at the monastery study the full school curriculum and learn to play piano and one other instrument, while studying music theory and choral singing.
Debuting in September next 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” from any aspiring members.
The historic Montserrat monastery was founded in the 11th century. A place of pilgrimage, people travel there to kiss ‘La Moreneta’, a 12th-century statue of the Virgin of Montserrat.
The expanded choir debuts next year, with visitors and pilgrims hearing the new voices of this ancient ensemble from September 2024.