For the first time in more than 700 years of history, the Escolania de Montserrat will incorporate female voices. The initiative has been approved by the Benedictine community and will take shape with the creation of a second mixed choir, made up of boys and girls aged between 17 and 24.
With documentary references dated shortly after the foundation of the monastery, in the 12th century, the Escolania is considered the oldest active music school in Europe. Always limited to white male voices, from next year it will experience a revolution with the creation of the Escolania Chamber Choir.
It will be a non-professional mixed choir. Its members will be in the training stage, which is why they can be considered 'schoolboys' and 'schoolgirls' and will wear cassocks and skirts, just like the singers of the traditional Escolania, currently more than half a hundred children aged 9 to 14 coming from Catalonia and other Catalan-speaking areas.
Under the direction of Pau Jorquera, current assistant musical director of the Escolania, the new Chamber Choir will sing one weekend a month in place of the children's training. Its members will rest and "will be able to spend more time with their families", monastic sources indicate. During their weekend, the formation will be housed in the monastic compound and will participate in the liturgical acts of the sanctuary performing the Salve Regina and the Virolai at the Saturday vigil service and at the conventual mass on Sunday. In addition to singing in the Montserrat liturgy, the boys and girls will have the opportunity to train in various aspects and to accompany the traditional Escolania on their tours.
The idea is that the chamber choir will make its debut from next year, so a selection of singers will be made through auditions. The first will take place on Saturdays May 27 and June 3. And they will be demanding. Jorquera will choose between 20 and 25 singers (sopranos, contraltos, tenors and basses) with an equal criterion between girls and boys. September 11 will be the day of dressing for the members of the Escolania and also of the new choir. Applicants must have experience in choral singing, a good level of musical reading and it will be positively valued if they are studying singing. The initiative has caused a lot of anticipation in the Catalan music world. "This project is aimed at young students of music, singing, conducting and related disciplines", specifies the religious community, which offers information to those interested through the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the same way that the students receive training during their stay in Montserrat, the institution intends that in the future the members of the new choir will also be able to obtain some kind of academic recognition. "In these moments, the paths must be explored through the Department of Education and the conservatories of Catalonia, both professional and higher".
Escolania describes the creation of the chamber choir as a "historic initiative". A project that, he says, responds to his sensibility for "the incorporation of girls" and for "the family and social realities of the families that are part of the traditional choir". A reality very different from that of the school days (6 years) of the music director of the Liceu, Josep Pons. "I was one of the first generation of schoolchildren who could spend the holidays at home", he says. Currently, it is not even necessary for them to be interns, and from next year they will have one free weekend each month. "The rehearsal and engagement regime of the new choir is different from that of the traditional Escolania, but I like the inclusion of women and all the initiatives that open doors to artistic proposals", reflects the prestigious choir director Mireia Barrera, 2014 National Culture Award.