THE DIRECTOR of Alcester Male Voice Choir is looking for new recruits.
But would Judith Land, who not only directs, but founded, the town’s highly-successful all-gentleman choir 50 years ago, accept female applicants?
Observer reporter Philippa Mingins had to ask.
Alcester Male Voice Choir is having its annual recruitment drive in which “gentlemen” are invited to come along to a special “Sing Along Evening” where they will be able to get a taste of what the choir is all about before signing up.
But in this age of inclusivity and equal opportunities, is it wrong to exclude a whole gender from joining in a popular social activity? Or are there greater considerations at play – such as musicality, and the fact adding a female voice would immediately alter the sound?
Judith, who has had a life long passion for music, was more than happy to give her thoughts.
She told the Observer: “I have read reviews across the country on whether ladies should be admitted into male voice choirs, so it is not an entirely alien question to be asked.
“Our choir has never been asked the question so I guess in all honesty I would reserve some judgement until that time. I think you hit the nail on top on the head when you referred to the change of sound in male voice choirs and compared orchestral instruments in the same way.
“It is inevitable that things would change but there is nothing wrong in experimenting and if you like the new sound of a composition, it is an achievement.
“We sang in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in July. In the 700-strong choir they were clearly needing more male singers so many altos, quite rightly, were transferred to the tenors and bass sections in order that the harmony could be heard.
“Likewise, I know that some mixed local choirs do the same to achieve the balance of harmony. In an all-ladies choir by adding a male singer, or in a male voice choir by adding a female singer, this could however change the sound to one that may not be preferred.”
Judith continued: “Over the last – nearly – five decades the choir has moved forward in each decade to be the success it has because since the 70s.
“New repertoire has been composed and arranged so we have always combined traditional male voice choir music with modernism and doing the same when inviting guest artists to participate in our annual concerts. My choir is unafraid to try new things and trust my creativity.”
Judith continued that in the past having a female conductor was considered controversial.
“In my case, they know in advance before signing up that we have a female founder/director of music and from time to time engage a female accompanist.
“We are now in post-Covid in the recovery stage and beginning to re-build a stronger sound in our choir. We have a valuable male voice choir tradition in Alcester and the process of repairing and re-adjustments have presented promising results over the past year as we have maintained our identity and not disbanded or had to team up with another choir.
“We have our own brand of organisation and unique history and must keep looking forward. Hence recruitment is very important every year to maintain/increase our numbers.
“There is no misogyny in my choir, but we can compare say the ladies and men’s rugby teams being separate, so I must ask ‘Why not maintain the format of a male voice choir?’ As I said earlier, I think it best to reserve judgement until it happens.”
“Gentlemen” – at least for the time being – interested in joining the Alcester Male Voice Choir should contact Judith on 07886139781.
The “Sing Along Evening” takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday September 14 at The Eric Payne Centre in St Faiths Road.