A 'MODERN Miss' is challenging one of Herefordshire's oldest institutions. Talented young trailblazer Elissa Shepherd says girls should have the same chance as boys to sing in Hereford Cathedral choir - exclusively all-male since 1381.

Aged only eight, Elissa went up against centuries of tradition to strike such a note at a voice trial for future choristers.

If her experience was 'uncomfortable' it might just have made a difference. Cathedral authorities confirm they'll consider choirgirls once new organist and director of music Geraint Bowen arrives in September.

No-one is saying sexism is the issue, just that it's time to tackle any assumption of hymns not mixing with hers.

Some purists singing the praises of historic Anglican anthems argue that they are impervious to social change.

Elissa, awaiting her audition's outcome, would beg to differ. From a musical family, and acknowledged as a promising singer, she attends Hereford Cathedral Junior School where headmaster Tim Lowe has experience of a similar situation; his daughter Harriet broke ground by being the first female to feature in Wells Cathedral choir.

It was to surprise that Elissa arrived at the voice trial, the resulting awkwardness, however unintentional, made her uncomfortable says mum Gabi.

This perception lasted throughout the trial process, from which Elissa emerged to ask 'why was it like that?'

If her confidence took a knock, she is bouncing back with a battle fought for 'all the girls in Herefordshire'. They should, she says, have an opportunity to sing in the Cathedral choir if talented enough.

Canon Paul Iles, Cathedral Precentor, told The Hereford Times that the possibility of a mixed choir is 'on the agenda' when Mr Bowen arrives.

Women and girls, he said, were encouraged to sing in the Cathedral and many do. But where men and boys had provided its music over the ages, change was going to take time - whatever the willingness.