At what point in church history were women allowed to sing during Mass?


#19

[quote="LittleDavid, post:18, topic:261394"]
Excellent point! What made it officially OK in 1916 for women to start singing the mass? Did GOD tell the pope "It's OK now, let 'em sing?"

[/quote]

Hi LittleDavid, That has been the whole point of this discussion from an evolutionary/historical/cultural perspective! There was no "Official" announcement in 1916 from the Vatican because women had already been singing in church for some time before that. When the repertoire being written and sung called for a female voice to sing, then a female voice sang. Simple as that. And ....He didn't object, so..:D. Hope that this helps the confusion! I guess Sarabande and I got into the whys and wherefores and didn't directly answer your question. :)


#20

Have been enjoying your discussions.:slight_smile: My references are this: “Women should not be part of a choir; they belong to the ranks of the laity. Separate women’s choirs too are totally forbidden, except for serious reasons and with permission of the bishop.” (Sacred Congregation for Liturgy, decree 22Nov.1907)
AND: “Any mixed choir of men and women, even if they stand far from the sanctuary, is totally forbidden.” (Sacred Congregation for Liturgy, decree 18Dec.1908)
I will try to find the 1916 document that OK’d women to sing, but as you can see as of 1908 it was forbidden. Any comments are welcome.:slight_smile:


#21

[quote="LittleDavid, post:20, topic:261394"]
Have been enjoying your discussions.:) My references are this: "Women should not be part of a choir; they belong to the ranks of the laity. Separate women's choirs too are totally forbidden, except for serious reasons and with permission of the bishop." (Sacred Congregation for Liturgy, decree 22Nov.1907)
AND: "Any mixed choir of men and women, even if they stand far from the sanctuary, is totally forbidden." (Sacred Congregation for Liturgy, decree 18Dec.1908)
I will try to find the 1916 document that OK'd women to sing, but as you can see as of 1908 it was forbidden. Any comments are welcome.:)

[/quote]

Hi LittleDavid! Do you know if there are other earlier documents from other centuries that also mention women being forbidden from singing in the choir? I do know that it was looked down upon for women to sing in church choirs, but do not know if any earlier documents actually verbalised it.

That said, I do remember that Mozart had to receive permission from the Archbishop to have his Great Mass in C done during mass in Salzburg and I'm thinking he probably had to receive permission to allow his wife to be one of the soloists as well. The musicians used were under the Archbishop's employment. Considering that, the choir was more than likely not made up of any women.


#22

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
Hi Sarabande! Likewise I am sure!! I'm trying to answer your quote, but don't know how you get the schaded boxes!! So I hope that you can decipher this!.........

[/quote]

Hi Hmgbrd! I was able to decipher. Thanks. If you click on the quote box under a post, you should be able to get the shaded boxes. Hope that helps.

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
*
Thanks for the tip!*

[/quote]

I wish I can remember one of the books I really enjoyed. It was older (written probably in the 60s/70s), but had a lot of great history in it. Another newer book I read, which you might have read as well, is "Angels and Monsters". Published a couple of years ago. It's a history of the soprano and it dedicates a chapter on the castrati.

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
Many Baroque theaters were just "smaller". At the Markgraefliches Opernhaus in Bayreuth the seats are really small. I think that the people were just smaller. But as you say on the inside it is gorgeous. The acoustics were kind of dry. I sang in a gastspiel of the Bayerisches Staatsoper in "Ariadne", a Richard Strauss opera. I would have loved to hear you in Italy.

[/quote]

Yes, I think when you're young and especially when you are from the States, you have this idea that all the opera houses are these huge structures, like the Paris Opera. Then when you do get to Europe to study and/or perform, you realize there is just so much more variations. I actually love the little theaters. That one in particular (it was the first theater I ever performed in over there) was just so sweet and absolutely beautiful on the inside. The stage itself was very tiny as well and like a ramp, that you had to be careful about not sliding off the stage. :p

Love "Ariadne auf naxos" and Strauss in general! He wrote such gorgeous music for the female voice. It's sublime. Would love to have heard you perform it. Are you still performing in Europe? I hope so. Having children makes it a little more difficult to travel as much to perform and I really missed my daughter this past summer when I was over there for an extended period. I don't think I could do that again unless I bring her and the new one next time.

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
No wonder! They sounded better, were more resilient, had more technique and musicianship (because they had studied for years longer), and were dependable (their voices didn't change in a few years.) and a new treble would have to be found

[/quote]

Very true.

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
]*Again ditto. The simulation was interesting, but unsatisfying. I would have loved to hear one live too. I know the recording that you have. I believe that he was in his 60s when it was recorded. Remember that they had to sing into a funnel which recorded onto wax when you listen to your recording. Everyone sang into the funnel at the same time. Listen to the accompaniment and choir behind him and imagine using your acoustic memory of what the sound would be like now. *

[/quote]

Right. It does take a while to get used to hearing old recordings because so much of it sounds horrible. But once you can get past it, you can start to hear what the voice probably sounded like.

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
*
Unfortunately a disordered approach attempting to artificially create an even sound.*

[/quote]

Agreement from me. :)

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:11, topic:261394"]
There are a number of really good counters out there. I sang in one of the International Haendel Festivals in Karlsruhe. Almost all of the pants roles were counters, one better than the other and all different. But as you said not all counters are of that caliber, just as not every regular singer is first class either. That is what was heartbreaking about the castrato phenomenon. Sometimes if a boy's voice showed promise as a child, then perhaps his poor and/or greedy family members with the hopes of fame, fortune, and a better life would agree for castration. Having done that, it was not a guarantee that said boy would actually develop into a first class soloist later on. Many landed in the *choirs and the visions of fame and fortune disappeared as mist in the morning. *
TO BE CONTINUED.......

[/quote]

It was very sad how these poor boys were mutilated. I always felt badly that were not permitted to marry in the Church due to their parents choices. I understand why the Church had done this, but I just feel horribly for them because it usually wasn't their choice to have it done to them. Some castrati did marry, as some were able to have actual intercourse with their wives, but they did it outside of the Church.

I don't know about countertenors, though, and it's probably a preference thing on my part. I agree that there are bad, mediocre, good and world-class singers in other voice types just like countertenors, but to me, a mediocre countertenor is just harder to listen to than a mediocre soprano. yeah, it's probably a preference thing. :D


#23

Thank you as well! And thank you for the well-wishes. We’re very happy and excited. :slight_smile: With the last one I was able to perform until three days before I gave birth, so we’ll see if I can break the record with this one. :stuck_out_tongue:


#24

Hi LittleDavid, HA!! you have been holding out on us after all!!:stuck_out_tongue: Could these documents be only Vatican documents concerning liturgical music for St. Peter’s and other papal seats (only Vatican churches)? There are so many masses out there in the 19th century that were being performed in other countries that I find it hard to believe that no woman at all ever sang in Catholic Church before then. I’m not saying that you are not correct with your documentation, only that from a practical standpoint it seems a little impractical.


#25

Hi Sarabande, Just be careful. Enjoy this time for yourself. Balslev insisted on singing late in her pregnancy in Salzburg Osterfestspiel and almost lost her child! In Germany the singers are discouraged from singing after 6 months of pregnancy. Feel free to private message me. Don’t want to take up space in LittleDavid’s post. Ciao :smiley:


#26

[quote="Hmgbrd, post:24, topic:261394"]
Hi LittleDavid, HA!! you have been holding out on us after all!!:p Could these documents be only Vatican documents concerning liturgical music for St. Peter's and other papal seats (only Vatican churches)? There are so many masses out there in the 19th century that were being performed in other countries that I find it hard to believe that no woman at all ever sang in Catholic Church before then. I'm not saying that you are not correct with your documentation, only that from a practical standpoint it seems a little impractical.

[/quote]

2 questions:
Do some Catholic churches follow a certain set of rules, and others do not??
I'm sure that doctrine in the Catholic Church is not decided upon by whether "it seems a little impractical" ....true??


#27

[quote="LittleDavid, post:26, topic:261394"]
2 questions:
Do some Catholic churches follow a certain set of rules, and others do not??
I'm sure that doctrine in the Catholic Church is not decided upon by whether "it seems a little impractical" ....true??

[/quote]

If that set of rules applies to dogma or doctrine, no. If that set of rules applies to rubrics or certain local practices, then yes it can vary a bit.

The issue of women singing in choir is not a dogmatic or doctrinal issue. My local RC parish had an all-woman choir for a while.


#28

I'm surprised no one batted an eyelash at the occurence of "the castrati" for so long. People were actually mutilating boys so they could sing a certain way. This is barbaric and disgusting . Why did no one put a stop to it immediately?:eek:


#29

[quote="RosalieM, post:28, topic:261394"]
I'm surprised no one batted an eyelash at the occurence of "the castrati" for so long. People were actually mutilating boys so they could sing a certain way. This is barbaric and disgusting . Why did no one put a stop to it immediately?:eek:

[/quote]

Not just for singing, but eunuchs were used for serving rulers as far back as ancient Egypt and China. Additionally they led armies and guarded sacred shrines (as well as harems). The history of eunuchs is an odd one indeed, and it is tied in with the worldwide long history of slavery.


#30

But if I understand correctly, this in particular was done for church choirs.:frowning: Did they not know the children were being mutilated? Because that’s what it is – the mutilation of children.


#31

[quote="RosalieM, post:30, topic:261394"]
But if I understand correctly, this in particular was done for church choirs.:( Did they not know the children were being mutilated? Because that's what it is -- the mutilation of children.

[/quote]

:shrug:

There were enough of them around (not just for choirs), so I'd guess that it wasn't a secret.

Also, there are stories of church members castrating themselves for religious purposes. I can't recall the Bible verse, but there is one about being eunuchs for the kingdom (which I think was probably interpreted in various ways, I'm sure).


#32

[quote="I_Thirst, post:31, topic:261394"]
:shrug:

There were enough of them around (not just for choirs), so I'd guess that it wasn't a secret.

Also, there are stories of church members castrating themselves for religious purposes. I can't recall the Bible verse, but there is one about being eunuchs for the kingdom (which I think was probably interpreted in various ways, I'm sure).

[/quote]

I just read that the practice was condemned by the church and punishable with excommunication but that it continued (I think into the early 1900's) because some were so enamored of the sound of the castrati's voices. There's a sound byte by "the last castrati" on the net but I don't want to hear it. The whole thing just makes me sad.
And I doubt that castration for religious purposes would make someone truly chaste.


#33

[quote="RosalieM, post:32, topic:261394"]
I just read that the practice was condemned by the church and punishable with excommunication but that it continued (I think into the early 1900's) because some were so enamored of the sound of the castrati's voices. There's a sound byte by "the last castrati" on the net but I don't want to hear it. The whole thing just makes me sad.

[/quote]

I found one of my books on the history of singing. This one was the "Angels and Monsters - Male and Female Sopranos in the Story of Opera". The second paragraph of the chapter on castrati asks the question as to why families would allow their children to basically be emasculated by mutilation. The author says that for many, it was simply because of money. About one out of every 100 castrati would become wealthy, but those who didn't were still expected to be able to support themselves and families. The sad thing about it, according to this author, was that perhaps:

ten or fifteen out of a hundred - were able to do even this, but in largely impoverished communities those were attractive odds nonetheless. And unfavorable odds could be further discounted by the knowledge that the boys would be serving a "higher cause," the Church - they would be working ad honorem Dei, as Pope Clement VIII's edict had put it. Naturally, the Church condemned the practice of castration, but everyone knew it was prepared to turn a blind eye so as to ensure that church and monastic choirs had a good supply of male soprano voices to take the place of the female voices it had banned.

The author goes further to say:

For some families, especially those that owned land there was a further piece of contorted reasoning: celibacy was the most effective means of birth control and enforcing celibacy on a younger son, who just happened to have a God-given voice, must sometimes have seemed an attractive way of safeguarding the family's property rights and avoiding the subdivision of land that would be necessary to support another family.Greed, desperation and cruel calculation were frequently dressed up in practical or high-minded rationale.

Now, this book said that the height of popularity of the castrati was between 1650-1730. In Italy, where they were mostly from, you couldn't be a "churchgoer" and "remain ignorant of this practice. It was part of the culture and most Italians approved of it." Their popularity started to go into decline by the mid 18th century when the economy got better and people didn't have to worry about the kinds of livings younger sons would have to make, they began to question the reasoning behind the practice, writers began to disparage the practice and then there were also fewer and smaller church and monastic choirs which made less of a demand for castrati. Any compositions for castrati in the 19th century were exceptions, as by that point the "idea was generally found repugnant." So, it does make one wonder if more Catholic churches in the 19th century were using females in their choirs, especially by the late 19th century. OR did they just used boys instead? But I don't think Verdi intended to have boy sopranos and altos in his choir for his Requiem, and, if I'm not mistaken, it was not composed to be a concert piece.

One of the weird things about it, especially in the Papal States, was that because women in the Papal States were not permitted to perform in public anywhere, they still needed soprano voices and castrati filled the "roles" perfectly... even more so. And even in other parts of Italy where women were allowed to perform on the stage, the castrati were still more welcomed because female singers were treated like "courtesans", even if they were chaste women. Having the castrati caused less scandal and problems. It makes you wonder if female singers were treated like prostitutes, how having them in Church choirs would also be scandalous and how much more appealing using castrati would be even if the practice was officially condemned.

The rest of the chapter goes into the opera side of the castrati, but it does give you an idea of what the culture was all about in regards to them. The whole thing has always been very sad to me as well because most of these boys had no say in their mutilation, yet it appears that they were raised to believe that they were doing something almost noble and holy especially if they stayed working in the Church choirs.

Don't bother listening to the recording unless you want to do it for curiosity's sake. It's not really a true representation of what it more than likely sounded like in real life and with a voice in its prime, as the singer was older. Castrati voices did not age well.

[quote="RosalieM, post:32, topic:261394"]
And I doubt that castration for religious purposes would make someone truly chaste.

[/quote]

I don't know about for religious purposes, but I do know that although some castrati remained chaste, many who were still able to have sexual intercourse did not and they became very popular among "loose" women in many parts of society, particularly amongst the aristocracy since they could not impregnate. They literally were the rock stars of their time, sleeping around with as many "groupies" as they could. (The performer castrati, I mean... I'm not sure about those who lived their lives out working in church choirs). And there were some few who risked their souls by getting married outside of the Church to women they loved.


#34

Thank you, Sarabande, for your informative post. I guess the whole castrati thing was, as another poster put it, a "phenomenon" after all. Amazing too, that their voices did not age well. I read that their limbs were also elongated and they had large bellies. And all this because women weren't allowed to sing or perform.:shrug:


#35

[quote="RosalieM, post:34, topic:261394"]
And all this because women weren't allowed to sing or perform.:shrug:

[/quote]

I think it is much more complex than that.


#36

I once read somewhere, that men and young boys (soprano voice) are allowed only. UNLESS there is not sufficient young voices, woman are allowed... How true, where, when and who wrote it... I got no clue :)


#37

I don’t see how.:confused: It’s a pretty huge thing to exclude women from performing and would necessitate using men and boys only. Maybe that sounds too simple, but it’s huge.


#38

[quote="RosalieM, post:37, topic:261394"]
I don't see how.:confused: It's a pretty huge thing to exclude women from performing and would necessitate using men and boys only. Maybe that sounds too simple, but it's huge.

[/quote]

I think in terms of the castrati (not talking about when men did do it for religious reasons), especially in Italy, I think one of the major factors why they became so popular and the practice accepted and approved of by the culture was because women were not allowed to sing in church choirs and either not permitted or looked down upon to perform in secular venues.

Now, I guess the question could be, what came first? Did the castrati come about on its own accord or did the banning of women from singing or performing create the phenomenon? It probably was a little bit of both, but that's only my conjecture. The castrati's voices were apparently something other-worldly and amazing --- when they were good. Employing them caused much less scandal and other problems in the secular singing world, than what employing female singers would cause. Using them for church choirs was more "practical" from an auditory aesthetic point-of-view due to their reported glorious voices, as well as from a training and longevity standpoint as they were already musically trained and would not have to be replaced every few years like boys when their voices changed.

Would they have still become a phenomenon had women been permitted to sing and perform in public during those times? Perhaps and perhaps not. Considering how people, especially women, went crazy over them during their heyday, I would not have been surprised about them still being around even if the circumstances for women were different. But at the same time, the practice may not have started or taken hold if culturally the idea of women singing in church choirs or in public was not banned or so looked down upon as unsavory and wrong.


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