The world-renowned Escolania boys’ choir, based at the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat near Barcelona, will be accepting girls from next year.
A new mixed chamber choir, formed of about 25 boys and women and girls aged 17 to 24, will sit alongside the boys’ choir for the first time in its 700-year old history.
Father Efrem de Montellà described it as a “historic” step for the choir, which has been in existence since the 13th century.
Additionally, the new choir will be separated from the Escolania all-boy-choir made of 45 boys aged nine to 14, of which the monastery noted for enshrining the image of the Virgin of Montserrat, has been the home.
It will take over the liturgical duties of the all-boy-group one weekend a month so that the boys could take a break and spend more time with their families, said Father Efrem de Montella.
The decision to involve female singers was settled following a long debate among the members of the Benedictine order that runs the monastery under newly chosen abbot Manel Gasch.
De Montella added: “We’re often asked why there aren’t any girls in the Escolania.
“It’s a complex and difficult question. We follow a tradition that we would like to continue but we also realise we have to respond to demand.
“In order to include all the girls who would like to sing at Montserrat and be escolanes [a pet name for the choir members] we’ve decided to establish this second choir.”
“It will be called the Chamber Choir of the Escolania de Montserrat and will perform one weekend a month, during which the current Escolania will rest and, therefore, the students will be able to have more time with their families.”
De Montella explained that the ideal balance of the voices will be decided by choir director Pau Jorquera, and said that the choir will complement the all-boys one.
Both choirs will reportedly wear the same vestment and sash.
The abbey revealed more about the enrollment process and said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “To be part of it, singers will be selected annually through auditions.
“The first will be on the Saturdays of 27th May and 3rd June 2023.
“Applicants must meet the following training requirements: good level of musical reading, experience in choral singing, be sensitive to the Christian religious fact and it will also be positively assessed that they are studying singing.
“This project is aimed at young people, students of music, singing, directing and related disciplines.”