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Leipzig’s St. Thomas Boys Choir copes with voices deepening at a younger age

By Michael Birnbaum
 
LEIPZIG -- For 800 years, the St. Thomas Boys Choir has been filling churches with pure, young voices. Now it’s confronting a confounding phenomenon: Every year, those voices are cracking with teenage angst just a little earlier than before.

Other boys choirs have been noticing it, too, as an unrelenting march of puberty sweeps voices into rebellion. Over recent decades, the already-short careers of their sopranos have started to end between six months and a year earlier, challenging them at times such as Easter, for which choral music such as J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was written with difficult lines for boys free of hormonal woes.