Girl loses bid to join Berlin’s boys’ choir

Girl loses bid to join Berlin’s boys’ choir


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2019

A girl in Berlin who petitioned the courts for the right to join the all-boy Domchor today lost her case.

The judge ruled that it was the conductor’s artistic right to exclude girls.

But there will be a process of negotiation.

Vienna next?


  • Jon H says:

    Have a girl choir too.

  • NN says:

    This is totally unaceptable. Girls shouldn’t be excluded from boys’ choirs and vice versa. Also we definitely need more inclusion of flautists and percussionists in string quartets or cellists in brass bands. The music world can be so unfair!

  • The term “verhandelt” in the headline of the German article does not mean there will be a process of negotiation. Verhandlung can mean to negotiate, but in this context it means “deals with.” In the ruling, the girl is prevented from being able to join the boys choir. There will be no negotiation.

    Her only option is to appeal the ruling. At that level, specialists would be asked to evaluate the differences between girls and boys voices, and girls and boys choirs. Such appeals often take years, by which time the girl would be too old to sing in the choir anyway. And the mother is reluctant to put the girl through the trauma of the trials.

    York University conducted a fairly rigorous analysis of boys and girls choirs. They did a blind test with ten professional musicians listening to ten boys choirs and ten girls choirs. They correctly identified the gender of the choirs only 53% of the time–i.e. within the realm of pure chance. The sounds are virtually indistinguishable. The study is here:

    There are also all-boy concert bands in Germany, but they are having trouble surviving since they can’t find enough qualified boys, and have to use girls as unofficial members. One such case is described in this article:;art372486,10247317?fbclid=IwAR082QZD6OMK5CKD-xOmqQQW7cbA5rhAl9x34HwtsWoAtVnybWWgdjuUUeY

    In the UK, most children’s choirs are now mixed. The gender cultural divide between the English and German-speaking worlds remains quite wide.

    • Tamino says:

      Thank you for linking the interesting study. A few comments:
      The study has a systematic flaw, as in that it used recordings to distinguish boys and girls (and mixed choirs).

      As the same study later points out, there are in fact measurable differences in the frequency spectrum, namely in the 4-6 kHz range, where boys choirs in average are stronger. It means their timbre is brighter. Yet recordings have a tendency to somewhat alter the frequency spectrum. Unless the recordings were all made in the same room with the same microphones and mixing technology, they are apples and oranges. The difference is about 5 dB over that frequency range. A substantial difference. But also easily within the tolerance interval of different recording techniques.

      Another study finds high similarity between girls and boys voices at the age of 6-7 years. Then they grow apart. Girls enter puberty in average at the age of 10, with the correlated voice alterations. Boys enter puberty substantially later, around age 12. Which means a boy can be trained and “used” longer in the childlike voice.
      Also the onset of puberty has over the centuries changed, some suggest today it is about 2 years earlier than about 300 years ago. Probably our generally better health and nutrition conditions accelerate the adolescent growth, compared to 300 years ago.

      All this suggests, that there are several reasons, artistic (sound) as well as logistic (useful age span to train and use a child’s voice), to discriminate children’s voices by gender. And that those reasons were even more pronounced centuries ago, when the tradition was founded.

  • V.Lind says:

    I don’t read German and Google translate is illiterate, so I can only ask — negotiations about what? She’s a girl, it’s a boys’ choir, a court has ruled (correctly, in my opinion).

    I am SICK of this. Not everyone is entitled to get in everywhere, to be whatever they want to be. It infuriates me that there are moves to close men’s clubs that do not include women members. There are certain things that must be open to all, but NOT EVERYTHING. I do not want to see the end of Welsh male choirs, or boys’ choirs. I DO want to see that there are singing opportunities, including in choral music, for women and girls — and there are.

    I am sick of ENTITLEMENT. Or at least some people’s sense of their own.

  • sam says:

    You know what happens to boys in boy choirs? They grow up not knowing how to interact with girls, they become famous tenors, and they don’t know how to interact with women.

    Lesson for a life time.

  • Schwalde Hochküst says:

    The girl did not lose, her hysterical, pathetic parents did. Hope they’ll have to pay all the costs.

  • Ms .Melody says:

    An all- boy choir is exactly that. Why is she trying to break in?
    Are there not enough girls or mixed choirs in Germany?

  • Sue says:

    I believe that’s the Vienna Boys Choir!

  • Gustavo says:


  • John Rook says:

    Send in Greta Thunberg. It’s irrelevant, but it’ll probably work.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    We here a lot about the need for “women-only spaces”. Why isn’t there a need for men-only spaces, too?

  • Robert Groen says:

    A non-story. Boys’ choirs use boys. Girls’ choirs use girls.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    A boys’ choir has a very different sound than a choir of boys and girls, and in order to blend with the boys, a girl placed in the choir would have to do unhealthy things vocally. In some things, the two sexes different. If a female tenor wanted to join a mixed choir (and had a good, blending voice, the same criteria that I would employ for a male singer) and was denied on account of her sex, I would think that was unfair. Likewise a male alto or countertenor should be allowed.

  • Music lover says:

    What in the world…. why would a girl want to join a boys choir??? Should a man petition to join a women’s choir?

  • John Borstlap says:

    For a girl to want to be member of an all-boy choir is like a tuba player applying for a seat in a mandoline ensemble. It is a matter of context and character, not of gender. But from a me-too perspective, everything is gendered and thus, full of injustice.

    It seems to me that such overgendered social politics disguise the real gender problems, the places in society where real gender discrimination takes place, like in work places where women are paid less for doing the same work as men, or women being discouraged from studying subjects for which gender is irrelevant.

    We see the same confusion around the ‘black face problem’, or the anger of British women about the existence of gentlemen’s clubs at Pall Mall. Soon, men will file complaints of discrimination because of being excluded from child bearing and breasts.

  • Denise says:

    Why dont she join a girls Choir please respect the boys rights .

  • Escamillo says:

    Of course. It’s absurd to insist on being able to join a boys’ choir – the vocal quality of girl’s and boys’ voices is entirely different. What’s next – tuba players insisting that they should play the flute part in an orchestral score?

  • Susie Purdy says:

    What part of ‘all boys choir’ does this girl not understand?

  • Mike says:

    I think it’s reasonable for girls to be members of boys only choirs on the basis that works composed specifically with boys voices in mind should exclude girls. This seems to work quite well in UK cathedral choir schools.

  • Rich Patina says:

    But…but…cannot she just start to maintain that she “identifies as a male?”

    Sheesh…what a world. 🙁

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    For those looking for an English-language story, you could try this New York Times story:

    “Girl’s Quest to Sing With Berlin’s Boys’ Choir Is Dashed”

  • Karl says:

    Modern feminist, leftist and SJWs consider gender to be a social construct. That would lead to the end of male only or female only groups.

    • Paul Brownsey says:

      It depends what you mean by “gender”, which in this neck of the woods slithers back and forth between at least three meanings:

      1. Polite synonym for “sex” (as in “gender-reveal party”);

      2. Behaviours and attitudes conventionally associated with a sex (men put up shelves, women do housework; men are from Mars, women from Venus; women are caring, men can’t express their feelings; women have friendships, men have mere alliances; etc)

      3. The sex one identifies as belonging to, which may differ from that indicated by one’s buology (“gender identity”).

    • V.Lind says:

      I am, as may not be clear from my post above, female. I am a feminist in the sense that I believe in equal opportunity, equal pay, the broad stroke meaning of rights for women, including in some fields from which they had been traditionally excluded. (Remember when women doctors were as rare as rain in Arabia?). My politics are probably more left than right, though I would not like to be voting in the UK these days, where the Labour party is like some sort of Mickey Mouse club without the coherence. If being a SJW means I think there is an environmental crisis that is being ignored by corporate interests and political dinosaurs like the US president, then guilty as charged.

      I do not consider gender to be a social construct; I consider it to be a grammatical one. I do not believe in quotas, or no-platforming, or trigger warnings or the culture of offence. I think all spaces should be safe spaces, and in situations where women need extra protection, such as in campuses with a rape culture where frat boys notch their belts based on sexual encounters voluntary or un, then that’s a social construct I can support.

      But as I have said above, I do not believe in the culture of entitlement on the because-I-want-it principle. Or the political culture that gets behind such views and pats itself on the back every time “another barrier” is breached. I would like all kids — both sexes (if “both” is still a permissible word to use), any race, any socio-economic stratum — to have a chance at any university in the land — but NOT at the cost of lowering standards of admission. The universities have to be places where HIGHER learning is still maintained, and it is evident that the way to open them up to wider audiences is to improve schools throughout the land.

      And I do not believe in storming the ramparts because some little darling from the generation of negotiations with children and no losers, all winners and Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas wants to sing in a boys’ choir or play on a boys’ team or sit in a men’s club. Girls and women have proven they can play football and other sports — on their own often brilliant teams. We know women can sing in choirs — if the women’s choirs are not as famous as the boys’, time to raise their game. (Those Bulgarian nuns a few years ago proved there was an audience for interesting and beautifully performed female singing). We know women can conduct and play in orchestras — so perhaps SD can now stop lobbying for every orchestra in the world to choose women for all vacancies and leave it to merit. Perhaps some orchestras had to be prodded more than others, but the message sees to be through.

      I detest identity politics. I think degrees in “gender studies” and the like are preposterous. If people would address themselves to real social injustices, from poverty and environmental damage to the justice system and its applications and to getting along with their neighbours and helping those needier than themselves, things would probably shake down fairly equitably. While I think the “Me Too” movement was necessary, courageous and long overdue, I regret its name, because ever since the “Me Generation” was identified, there has been far too much focus on the “Me”s of this world in every field of endeavour. A little looking around might convince these German parents with their First World problem that there were other outlets for little Gretl and better causes to throw their weight behind.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Does anyone know how many boys have sued to join the Girl Scouts?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The world is getting fuller and fuller of people I like less and less.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    How disgusting. As if there aren’t girl choirs. Let the boys alone. Girls want to take everything away from them.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Let the woke band together and form the Orchestra of the age of Entitlement