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Lincoln hires a woman for its cathedral choir

29 September 2011

by Richard Vamplew

THE appointment of the first woman to Lincoln Cathedral Choir has been described as a “tragedy” by some music traditionalists. Helen Vincent, an alto choral scholar aged 22, has joined what was previously an entirely male team in the main choir, sparking anger among some campaigners.

Lincoln Cathedral Choir has accepted girl choristers to its front line since 1995, but has not included women in the main choir until now. Speaking on behalf of the group Campaign for the Traditional Cathedral Choir, Lynda Collins said that the introduction of women was a “tragedy”, and would fundamentally change the sound of the choir.

“An awful lot of people are going to be very upset that this decision means the end of a traditional choir,” she said. “The alto voice is a male voice, and the sound is subtly and importantly different from that produced by a female. Composers . . . have written alto parts with the male voice specifically in mind.

“If the Lincoln Director of Music believes a mixed line of altos can blend successfully, then one wonders what will be next.”

The director of music at Lincoln Cathedral, Aric Prentice, defended the decision to appoint Miss Vincent. “As an alto myself, I have sung in choirs where there’s a mix­ture of men and women, and have always found it to give a greater flexibility of sound.

“The blends have provided an interesting sound that hasn’t deviated far from people’s per­ception of what a cathedral choir sounds like.”

Miss Vincent, from Berkshire, said: “I’m quite apprehensive about what everyone will think, but I’m absolutely delighted to have been given the chance.”

The new assistant organist at the Cathedral, Claire Innes-Hopkins, aged 25, is supporting Miss Vincent. “Most cathedrals have girl choirs now, so it is not really out of the ordinary any more.”

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