The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1854 Monday, 1 November 1999.
From: Stuart Manger <
Date: Thursday, 28 Oct 1999 20:32:16 +0100
Subject: Re: Ages of Puberty
Comment: SHK 10.1843 Re: Ages of Puberty
Some current choir trainers suggest that it is a change to a far higher
protein diet that has accelerated the hormone balance changes, and maybe
even the far greater exercise programme followed by most choir boys
There is another slightly less obvious factor: today, boys reaching 13 +
with still unbroken voices are more prepared to disguise it, since they
may well suffer at the hands of the boors. In Tudor periods, although
this may well have been the case as well, boys were not and are not
fools, and would have realised double quick that their livelihood, and
maybe more, actively depended on being able to sing treble for as long
as possible? I think it is likely to be as true as it probably was in
the 15-17th centuries that good trebles can 'manufacture' a treble voice
for rather longer than their vocal mechanisms can produce naturally.
Some can do it for considerable time after their voice has 'broken'
judging from my own observation. Necessity being the mother of
That does not, of course, explain why the music of the early Tudor
period e.g. Mundy is pitched (aha! now we are into very tricky areas!)
sufficiently stratospherically for it to be a real struggle for all but
the youngest and best trained choristers across lengthy anthems /
motets. Presumably the composers, themselves likely to have been
ex-choristers, would have intimate knowledge of what could and what
could not be encompassed? So the prevalence of the writing of high
tessitura, decorative lines for trebles must mean that they were capable
of navigating the stuff? You don't write it if the lads can't do it!
So, perhaps the debate about actual physical puberty is more complex
than it seems to be? Does it come down in this context at least to a
definition of puberty that is not strictly physiological?