The Voice Break Choir

Puberty is tough on everyone but for members of boys’ choirs, it can be especially hard. When their voices start to crack, an instrument that they’ve spent years tuning and perfecting is suddenly thrown all out of whack, shifting from soprano to alto or even bass in a matter of months. Their once-reliable voices become irregular, they don’t know where they are going to settle, and once they finally do, they almost have to learn how to sing all over again.

Often teen boys will quit singing in the choir when their voices crack, but the Stockholm Boys’ Choir works with boys going through these changes, empowering them to perform while they wait for their voices to develop, an essential intermediate step between the high notes of the boys’ choir and the deeper tones of the mens’ choir. In many ways, these challenges mirror the larger struggles of puberty.

“We really thought it was a good metaphor for this time in life,” Holmqvist said. In the film, the choristers perform songs with lyrics derived from their own interviews in the documentary, in which they bare their young souls. “Maybe I’m just weird. / Is there something wrong with me?” the fourteen-year-old Dan sings, worried about his lack of interest in the soccer his classmates play. “I just like other things, / Like drawing figures.”

He’s not alone in his doubts. “I don’t think I’m a typical boy,” Ludwig says, also fourteen, in an interview. “Right now, at this age, I’m hanging around more with girls, since they’re easier to talk to.” The fifteen-year-old Andrey, on the other hand, can’t bring himself to ask out the girl he longs to take to prom. “If she turns me down, everyone will laugh at me,” he frets.

This is a lovely little film.

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This entry originally appeared at kottke.org/21/11/the-voice-break-choir, and may be a summary or abridged version.