Canterbury Cathedral Ends 900-Year Tradition as Girls’ Voices Ring Out

Tonight at sung Evensong, Canterbury Cathedral ended its 900-year tradition of excluding females from singing in its choirs when the Canterbury Cathedral Girls’ Choir made its debut. The impact this will have in the Church of England remains to be seen. Undoubtedly some traditionalists will be upset, but it seems that this is a ‘tradition’ that has rightly been ended.



  1. It is hardly a first in the Church of England. I suppose it is significant since it is the cathedral church of the Head of the Anglican Communion. I’m of the particular brand of Traditionalist who has no problem with this. (Who could? Girls, as well as boys, deserve the opportunity of a high level of music-making and the attending qualities of self-discipline which ultimately liberate an individual.) I do, however, think it important that there are two choirs who can collaborate upon occasion yet remain distinct ensembles, each with its own esprit de corps and sense of healthy competition. (Of course as a traditionalist it would be important to me that the girls have different vestments from cassock and surplice.)

  2. I really don’t see a problem with the ladies wearing cassocks and surplices. This is much better than those academic gowns favored by some, IMHO.

  3. My sense is that we will look back on this tremendously petty conversation about wardrobe, gender and practice in twenty years and cringe, rightfully. If the singers bring joy and inspiration to the listeners then what they wear and what gender they are will be of no difference.

    Just look at ourselves discussing the gender and clothing and then listen to their voices. Again, we are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  4. ‘Undoubtedly some traditionalists will be upset, but it seems that this is a ‘tradition’ that has rightly been ended.’

    I don’t think it’s for us Catholics to tell the Anglicans which of their traditions are ‘right’ to end. But then, I haven’t heard a single murmur about it, from ‘traditionalists’ or anyone. It’s only a choir, for heaven’s sake.

    Several of my daughter’s good school friends are in the new girls’ choir; we didn’t go down to their debut Evensong because we reckoned there’d be no room, what with the press and all. Though the cathedral website ( says the 16 girls come from 8 different local schools, no fewer than 9 come from one single all-girls grammar school (ie, selective state school)—Kent being one of the few counties that managed to evade Labour’s campaign to abolish selective secondary schools.

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