Only by getting the Altos to lend us some singers do we have enough Tenors. But can women really sing a Tenor part?
As a community choir we tend to cover quite a limited range – most of the women are really Altos, and most of the men are really Baritones. In fact, I don’t call the high female voices Sopranos, but tops, and the blokes are … well, just ‘The blokes’! Only a couple of our guys sing Tenor, the others sing the Bass line (which is really Baritone!).
So, given that we have a limited range, the Tenor section is really just a low Alto part – not too high for the guys, and not too low for the women.
There has been quite a lot of discussion about Tenor ladies. Many people deny their existence, and some people think it damages the female voice. Here are a couple of articles, one written by a woman Tenor: Should women sing Tenor? and the other as part of ChoralNet’s discussion forum: Gendered vocal parts (female tenors).
Whether you believe a woman can truly sing Tenor or not, there is always going to be a difference in vocal quality since a man will be singing high in his range and will sound strong and resonant, whereas a woman will be singing low in her range and will sound dark and husky.
Typically in choral music the Tenor range is something like C one octave below middle C, up to A above middle C. The range I use in the choir is just F below middle C up to F above middle C – quite a small range which is more like a low Alto or even Contralto.