BOYS are still hitting the high notes at Blackburn Cathedral, despite research suggesting their voices are breaking earlier.
According to a scientific study carried out by Professor Martin Ashley, Head of Research at Edge Hill University's Faculty of Education, the sound of angelic boy choristers singing carols at Christmas could be a thing of the past as they battle testosterone levels at an earlier age.
Prof Ashley studied 1,000 boys over two years and found that where male voices were breaking around the age of 13 or 14 in the 1960s, they can now expect to deepen aged 11 or 12.
The change is attributed to people enjoying a richer diet than in the past.
He said: “There is some controversy building around what our findings mean for choirs.
“People are concerned that we will not get the quality of older, more mature boys with improved singing skills performing as trebles in choirs, and this is becoming a fact.
“They are more mature when they get to 15 and are still singing, but this is rare now.
“The answer to it is to begin teaching boys to sing earlier, allowing them more time to mature as choristers.”
However Blackburn Cathedral’s choirmaster said his choristers are just as good now as they have ever been.
Samuel Hudson, director of music at Blackburn Cathedral, said: “Our choir certainly isn’t lacking in quality because of boys having to pass into the young people’s choir sooner.
“I think the reason people find the research worrying is because choirs are a monument to tradition and they don’t want to see them threatened.
"We do have a problem with recruitment because we require a lot of commitment from our choristers and there are so many other extracurricular activities for them to do.
“But it is very rewarding, and most of the choristers stay with us once they have started.” In a bid to put the study to the test, top children’s show Newsround visited the cathedral on Wednesday to film the choir in full voice.
Ben Fourie, 14, from Wilpshire, is a chorister at Cambiata North West, a regional boys’ choir which helps support singers as their voice changes. His voice broke within days of his 13th birthday, meaning he could no longer sing as a treble.
Ben, who attends Clitheroe Grammar School, said: “I really like singing and I wasn’t going to stop because my voice changed. Luckily, the Cambiata has a number of sections for lads at the different stages, before they break, during, and after, so there’s no problem for us.”