Boy Choir Costumes

Figure 1.--Many French choirs have school tyoe uniforms, based on the uniform of French Catholic schools during the 1950s. Most of the choirs are Catholic choirs and they also perform in cassocks and other eclesiastical costumes, depending on the music they are singing..

Boy choir costumes have vaired greatly over time and from country to country. We do not have much information on early costumes, but as they were organized by the Church, eclesistical styles were prevalent. e know much more bout modern costumes. In more recent times schools styles were popular. We also see sailor suits which sem popular in Germany, Austria, and neigbiring countries. Here there were both regular uniforms and performance costumes as well as secular and religious costumes. . Some choirs used both during concerts. Many choir directors believe that the costume is very important both for discipline and ppearance and have given great attention to it. Some want destinctive styles while others opt for a more standardize national style. Many French choirs have adopted similar styles. Other choirs directors attach less imporatnce to it, butalmost all have standard costumes. A variety of garments have become associated with boys choirs. Generally however choir costumes have reflected the boys' cclothing of the day, although choirs are odten conservative about making changes in the costume. Thus we see the boys wearing styles that hve passed out of fashion.


Why are choir uniforms important? Surely it is the music that is important? Why have choir over centuries given so much importance to uniforms? Even in America where uniforms for children, until recently, have not been important, choirs have given considerable attention to uniforms. Some European choirs have quite destinctive uniforms. Others have adopted contemporary dress. While the costumes of modern choirs are quite varied, many but not all choir directors are convinced that the costume is important.


The costumes for formal church singing was eclesiastical wear dictated by the local church and in keeping with the dress of priests, vicars, and other churchmen. The primary choir garment is the surplice which is a white linnen garment worn over a robe. The surplice is worn by Roman Catolic eclesiastics in choir except the officiants of the mass. It is also worn by Anglican/Episcopalian clergy. The surpice is worn by laymen and boys in both the Catholic and anglican church who sing in the choir or assist at the altar. As choirs developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, new costimes were developed for performanes of non-eclesiastical music, including sailor suits and velver suits or other formal dress. German boy choirs such as the Vienna choir boys often chose sailor suits. French and British choirs often had short pants costumes. Several boys' choirs were formed in America, one of the most famous being the Harlem Boys' Choir. Since the 1970s, most choirs have gradually adopted blazers and long pants. A few choirs continue more traditional costumes like the Vienna Choir Boys who continue to wear sailor suits. Some are concerned about the future of boys choirs and one of the concerns is choir costumes and and the participation of girls. The Times newspaper of July 13, 1998 provided some interesting insights. The growing number of girls' choirs in cathedrals could be damaging the traditional all-male choir beyond repair, according to some leading English organists. Boys are apparently increasingly unwilling to join choirs where girls have been admitted. The primary reason for this notable trend is that many boys do not want to be seen doing what they preceive as "girlish things", according to a report by the Friends of Cathedral Music. The organisation, which is "monitoring developments" in girls' choirs, gives warning that the tradition of male choral music in cathedrals is being threatened by political correctness. It says that boys who are prepared to dress up in "white surplices and triple ruffs" if they sing with men, apparently think twice when girls appear alongside them. The growing shortage of boys means that there will be fewer men able to sing bass or tenor in cathedral or other choirs at a time when most choral music is still written with parts that must be sung by men. Gordon Stewart, organist at Blackburn Cathedral, says that it has become politically unacceptable for many to have all-male choirs. He notes wryly: "It's all right to destroy centuries of tradition for the sake of political correctness". He continues: "How do I get on, working in a place like Blackburn, with a bunch of 30 boys, some of them aged 14, dressed up in white surplices and triple ruffs? It works because it is an all-male environment and the men are in white surplices too and they are just as disciplined in rehearsals as the boys ... make singing into something the girls do, and you will find very few real little boys wanting to do it."


A wide variety of garments are associates with choir groups. Some of the most important have been the following. Many of the distinctibe garments are the liturgigal garments worn by the British cathedral choirs and te folk costumes worn by various European choirs. Choir costumes have also been stringly influenced by British school uniforms, as choristers are often attached to the public and preparatory schools maintained by English cathedral choirs. Another major choir costume has been the sailor suits favored bu German and Scandinavian choirs.


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Created: 7:03 AM 11/23/2012
Last updated: 7:03 AM 11/23/2012