#Art + Culture

In A First,1,000-year-old German Cathedral Choir Opens To Female Students

Regensburger Domspatzen Cathedral Choir
Cathedral Choir: Germany’s renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys’ choir attached to a Catholic boarding school will open its ranks to girls for the first time breaking centuries-old tradition. One of the oldest choirs founded in 975, the Regensburger Domspatzen, part of a school where the curriculum is heavily focussed on music, will open to female students in 2022.

However, the Domspatzen, which literally means “cathedral sparrows”, as the cathedral choir and all mail choir will remain unaffected by the change.

“The choir for girls and women will be a new, additional musical pillar in Regensburg Cathedral’s music,” the statement in German said.

The world-famous choir was led by Georg Ratzinger, who died in 2020 at the age of 96.

The all boys’ choir was founded by Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg in the 20th century, the choir gained worldwide renown which led to foreign tours and staging concerts in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.

The Catholic school has been run by a woman for the past 18 months. And the Regensburger Domspatzen choir has a female high school head, Christine Lohse and Christian Heiss is the musical director.

Cathedral Choir under the shadow of child sexual abuse scandal 

Back in 2017, the Catholic Church embroiled in child abuse scandal when a report found that from 1945 to the early 1990s, more than 500 choir boys were victims of sexual or physical abuse.

Senior Church figures were called out for failing to prevent the abuse including Georg Ratzinger, the brother of the former Pope Benedict, who led the all male choir  from 1964 to 1994. However, Ratzinger denied being aware of the abuse at the school. Following the widespread child sexual abuse accusations, the leadership changed.

Gender disparity case against Berlin choir 

In 2019, a 9-year-old girl sued the Berlin boys’ choir over gender discrimination for rejecting her application. The case sparked debate over equal rights versus artistic freedom. Initially, the young girl auditioned with Berlin’s 500-year-old choir in March and didn’t get accepted.

However, the choir insisted that the rejection was “not predominantly about her gender”. She would have joined if she presented exceptional talent and “her voice had matched the desired sound characteristics of a boys choir”, the court said.

One of the most popular boys’ choirs in Germany, the State and Cathedral Choir, is a male -only choir which has never admitted any girls.

Berlin and Cologne cathedrals launched their own girls’ choirs in the 1980s, but they have so far not attracted the prestige of their male counterparts.