Katie Ambrose

University of York

Presenter Profile

Katie is a postgraduate researcher in the School of ACT at the University of York, working on a thesis about the intersections between choral music performance, technology, and gender. Katie is specifically interested in how a technologically mediated society may have accelerated gender diversity in ‘traditional’ choral environments, with a further particular interest in whether social media and the ‘me-too’ movement have provided an added external pressure to institutions to make change. In 2023, alongside Dr Amandine Pras and Dr Jude Brereton, Katie proposed the Female Ear praxis, which aims to challenge the aesthetic canons and audio quality standards of sound engineering and music production that have been established in strongly male-dominated industries. Katie is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of ACT, providing support for both the students on the Master’s in Music Production and Vocal Studies. Alongside her research and teaching, Katie is the General Manager of the baroque ensemble Oxford Bach Soloists. She is a freelance mezzo-soprano, and has regularly sung for ensembles conducted by Stephen Layton, Robert Hollingworth, and Richard Pinel. Katie is on the staff at St Silas Church in Kentish Town, and deputises with groups and at churches in London and in the UK more broadly.

Choral music-making in gendered settings

A technologically mediated approach

The British choral tradition has been developed on an androcentric platform, and has maintained this culture of exclusivity over its evolution. It is only within relatively recent times that some of the cathedral foundations have begun to question and enact change to allow the integration of girls as choristers within their choirs, and women mezzo-sopranos and contraltos onto the back rows. Whilst this integration of women and girls into these choirs is an important and positive move in the right direction, the institution is still inherently gendered and does not allow the musical participants to exist in a space where their role is not defined by their sex.

This paper looks at the impact of the developing landscape of tradition on the primary musicking participants, with attention to how the introduction of technology in these spaces (for live-streaming purposes) impacts the choir’s music-making. The role of women working in audio spaces is considered, examining how the presence of women in these spaces impacts the perceived effectiveness of the environment. These are preliminary findings that are attached to the wider work of my thesis, which is a mixed methods study based on Georgina Born’s theory of mediation (2011) and Microaggression theory, and investigating the intersections between technology, gender, and choral performance. It includes analysis of my completed interviews to date, which are drawn from a pool of conductors, singers, administrators, music producers and sound engineers, all of whom have years of professional experience in their field.

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