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Scholarly Abstraction: Publications on Women's Choruses

Estes, Lauren. The Choral Hierarchy Examined: The Presence of Women’s Choirs in Monographs on Choral Literature and Choral History. Master of Music thesis.  Syracuse University, 2013.
Women’s choirs have been perceived as less prestigious than, and inferior to, mixed choirs.  There is a well-documented choral hierarchy in academia that favors mixed choirs above other choir types. Most frequently, the delineation of the choral hierarchy places women’s choirs at the bottom. Books about choral literature and choral history are influential media for those selecting repertoire for choirs. In this study, the monographs recommended as resources on choral literature and choral history by the American Choral Directors Association were surveyed to ascertain the quantity and kind of repertoire included for women’s choirs as compared to the quantity and kind of repertoire included for other types of choirs in order to determine if the monographs reflected the choral hierarchy. Mixed choirs were found to have the highest percentage of works for each of the three monographs surveyed, followed by men’s, treble, women’s and children’s, and “other type” choirs. Arrangements for women’s choirs and compositions for women’s choir and at least one other choir type comprised very little of the women’s choir repertoire included. Commentary in the monographs regarding choir make-up was inconsistent across texts, and all failed to mention institutions significant in the development of the modern women’s choir, such as the Venetian ospedali, German Frauenchor, and school and club choirs in the twentieth century. The research demonstrates a preference for mixed choirs in the monographs surveyed, both with regard to the percentage of repertoire mentioned and the history of choral music relayed. The research parallels the choral hierarchy in terms of the percent of repertoire included. The author, in agreement with previous scholarly suggestion, concludes that the choral hierarchy is detrimental to the choral art, and that a dual model consisting of supplementing with additional resources when studying choral literature and history and assimilating such information into new editions of standard literature would ameliorate the negative effects.
(“Scholarly Abstractions” is a feature highlighting brief abstracts from recent graduate projects in choral music.  To share your thesis abstract, contact Scott Dorsey at