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Christianity The castrated choir boys

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by aristotle, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. aristotle

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    May 11, 2010
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    The castrati - they were male singers with the power of
    a man’s body but with a boy’s voice. The era of the
    castrati was indeed a sad one. Who were they? The
    answer has to do with a shocking practice-mutilation
    in the name of religion.

    Singing has played an important role in Eastern
    Orthodox and Roman Catholic liturgy, the mainstay of
    a church choir being boy sopranos. A boy’s voice,
    though, breaks in his early teens. How could the
    church overcome the constant change in personnel
    and the training it entailed? True, a somewhat
    colorless higher range of voice known as falsetto was
    often employed, but this was not an acceptable
    replacement for the boy soprano.

    In 1588, Pope Sixtus V banned women from singing on
    stage in any public theater or opera house. This ban
    was reiterated by Pope Innocent XI about 100 years
    later. "The disapproval of female theatrical performers
    and the coupling of their name with that of prostitution
    and licentiousness was an ancient tradition, going
    back to the days of St Augustine and even earlier,"
    observes researcher Angus Heriot. By taking this
    inflexible stand, however, the church opened up the
    way to another, more serious problem-castrati!

    Castrati rapidly gained popularity. Pope Clement VIII
    (1592-1605), for example, was greatly impressed with
    the flexibility and sweetness of their voices. Even
    though anyone known to have connection with the act
    of castration was supposed to have been
    excommunicated, a steady influx of young boys
    became available as the musical needs of the church

    Shops were said to advertise, "Qui si castrono ragazzi
    (Boys are castrated here)." One barbershop in Rome
    proudly proclaimed: "Singers castrated here for the
    papal chapel choirs." It is claimed that during the 18th
    century, some 4,000 Italian boys may have been
    castrated for this purpose. How many died in the
    process is not known.

    Pope Benedict XIV himself referred back to the Council
    of Nicaea’s decision and acknowledged that castration
    was unlawful. But in 1748 he firmly rejected a
    suggestion from his own bishops that castrati be
    banned, for he feared that churches would become
    empty if he did. Such was the appeal and importance
    of church music. So castrati choristers continued to
    sing in Italian church choirs, in St. Peter’s, and in the
    pope’s own Sistine Chapel.

    (Source: www.dankalia.com/archive/1000/1169.htm)


  2. Inderjeet Kaur

    Inderjeet Kaur
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    Oct 13, 2011
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    If you wonder what could possibly be the appeal of the singing of castrated choir boys, listen to this 13 year old boy whose voice is about to change. This does not, of course, excuse this abominable practice, but it might explain it.

    Or, they might have eased up and (horrors!) Iet girls and women sing.

    #2 Inderjeet Kaur, Sep 17, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
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