History shows that there are obvious aesthetic and social purposes for singing in uni-gender groups. One of the reasons they were so popular with preceding generations, was that they provided camaraderie and enjoyment of singing among members of the same sex. Nowadays they may be organized and enjoyed in the mid-level and secondary classroom for the same reason. It is indeed a unique singing opportunity not experienced in a mixed group.
In America all-male and all-female choirs have not always been as popular as mixed groups. The women’s rights movement has discouraged segregation, and the dearth of men who want to sing has forced most who do to sing in mixed choirs. The pioneer heritage and spirit forged during America’s developmental years has fostered an attitude among the populace that singing is not masculine and should be relegated strictly to women; a syndrome which is difficult to find in many other cultures. This “pseudo-machismo” is unfortunate indeed because so many American men and boys never fulfill the aesthetic needs in their lives and are hindered in becoming truly self-actualized individuals.
Throughout the nation, directors are finding that in the middle-level grades, singing in uni-gender choirs is highly advantageous over mixed choirs. Scheduling uni-gender choirs in many middle-level vocal programs may be born out of necessity rather than because of the innate importance of such groups. Consideration for the maturation level of the students is one reason for separating the girls from the boys. The two groups, although they may have the same number of years since birth, certainly do not have the same interests, particularly in each other. Physically, most young women are at least two inches (and sometimes as many as four inches) taller than the young men. Young women at this age are generally more interested in high school age guys, whereas most of the young men are clustered into all-male social activities and organizations. In other words, the girls are more mature than the guys in the mid-level grades.
Since the middle-level grades are the years in which most boys experience vocal mutation, the more options (available parts) teachers have from which to choose in placing the boys in sections, the more likely the boys will be comfortable and productive in the singing process. The importance of keeping the boys singing in the comfortable singing tessitura of their voices during the period of high mutation cannot be over emphasized. A more definitive explanation as to why it is important to utilize the comfortable singing tessitura of boys voices may be found in the article entitledTenets of the Cambiata Concept. Putting two or three grades of boys together (usually 7th, & 8th; 6th, 7th, & 8th; or 7th, 8th, & 9th) affords three or four parts (CCB, CBB or CCBB) from which teachers may choose when searching for a part in the music with a comfortable singing area for various boys to sing.
If school or church protocol calls for unigrade classes, directors may choose to teach the grades separately, then combine them for concert or worship services. Although taught separately, combining the boys and girls to sing four-part mixed music (boys and girls singing SSCB voicing together), is significantly better than having only one part that all boys must sing (SABoys), since there are at least two boys’ parts from which to choose in the SSCB voicing.
Like directors of all-male choruses, directors of all-female choruses in middle-level and high school encounter problems in meeting the needs of the girls’ young voices. It is very rare to find a true, natural alto among adolescent singers. Directors are inclined to place those students who are good readers on the inner and lower parts. Girls who are consistently relegated to the lower parts will never develop the upper (head voice) part of the range and soon will be complaining that they cannot sing high. It is important to vocalize the girls throughout the full compass of the voice, which often takes them up to a high B-flat or C (above the treble clef). Further, it is advisable to switch parts on some of the literature so that the “altos” will have an opportunity to use the upper regions of the voice. Directors must be very careful to select literature that does not keep the lower voices around middle C or below all the time. Choose literature that includes some unison singing for the girls so that they all may sing throughout the full compass of their ranges.