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Classical Notes

Classical Grrl Power

Posted at 9:43 PM on November 4, 2009 by John Birge
Filed under: Fun finds, Musician stories

The BBC reports that Durham Cathedral, one of the England's oldest and largest, has admitted girls to its traditional choir of men and boys. The girls sang Evensong last Sunday. Going forward, the choir will have 20 boys and 20 girls, most girls between the ages of nine and eleven. It's the end of a tradition that goes back to the year 1640, and as The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove put it: "It is not often that we can genuinely say that we are making history in a cathedral as old as this."

From 1703 to 1741, Antonio Vivaldi spent the last 38 years of his life as teaching and conducting the all-girl orchestra at the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. It was a home for orphaned, abandoned, or illegitimate girls. Music was a primary activity, and the level of instruction was so high that some parents would try to pass off their legitimate children as illegitimate in order to get them in! A plaque outside Vivaldi's school warned that anyone who attempted this fraud would be struck by lightning.

The Seika Girls' High School Band of Japan isn't restricted to orphans, but it's one of the best in the world. Hey, forget the Supremes and all those other Girl Groups of the '60s; the precision and passion in this video is stunning. Check out the powerful low brass section; they put many college-age bands to shame. (BTW, props to my old friend Aaron Brask of the Jacksonville Symphony for passing this along...)