Nethsingha (pictured above) hopes that the move will “bring the day closer when there is gender equality amongst composers, organists and conductors"James Beddoe

From the beginning of 2022, women and girls will be able to join the St John’s College Choir for the first time in its 350-year history, it was announced by the College this morning (15/10). The change was “spearheaded” by Andrew Nethsingha, who has been Director for 14 years. 

The College believes this extension of membership would result in an “exceptional new musical opportunity for women and girls.” Women will now be able to become choral scholars and join the choir as altos.

Currently, singers of the two upper voice parts are drawn from young boys at the local St. John’s College School, while the lower two parts consist of adult Choral Scholars who attend the University. From 2022, women and younger girls will be able to join the two upper voice parts.

The change makes the choir among the first to combine male and female, younger and adult voices, in one.

Nethsingha hopes that the move will “bring the day closer when there is gender equality amongst composers, organists and conductors, as well as among politicians, business leaders and in all other walks of life.”

This comes alongside the 30-year anniversary of the first young female choristers being admitted to cathedral choirs, which took place in Salisbury Cathedral in 1991. 


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Until recently, men and young boys have been at the forefront of Britain’s rich choral history, both as choristers and composers: it was not until 2019 that the number of young female choristers was reported as matching that of their male counterparts.

The inclusion of women into the choir comes over 40 years after women were admitted to St. John’s College. By contrast, the majority of college choirs admitted female voices at the same time as women began to be offered academic places. 

This announcement will make the choir of King’s College the only remaining exclusively male choir in Cambridge, a fact which the opera singer Lesley Garrett has called “an excuse to hand on male privilege.”