The Limitations of A Female Quartet

The WOMMISSO (Women’s Missionary Society), a women’s organization that spans across churches, meets quarterly in conferences. In these conferences, there are literary contests that range from vocal solos to drama plays. In an upcoming conference this week, one of the contests would be a Female Quartet Contest. The four parts would be singing the traditional SATB Hymn Arrangement (well, I presume the TB will be sung an octave higher).

Personally, I was inconvenient with the term. Female quartet?

Vestal Goodman, Queen of Gospel Music, can sing the tenor part of male quartets.
Vestal Goodman, Queen of Gospel Music, can sing the tenor part of male quartets.

We’ll, I’ve already come across a variety of quartets—SATB and male—but I believe it’s difficult for women to sing a vocally satisfactory quartet. Although they can sing as high as they could (all women CAN whistle if they would), never in my life had I knew a female who can go down to bass territory (though I know who sing in the tenor range like Vestal Goodman, Queen of Gospel Music).

In the following YouTube Video, Vestal sings the tenor part intended for an male quartet (Tenor-Lead-Baritone-Bass).

Men can well meet that. Since men lower their voice during puberty, they can sing bass but still can go as high to those of the women’s range. One of my favorites is the Gaither Vocal Band who have had well-renowned Gospel Singers who sang the different parts (David Phelps, Guy Penrod, Mark Lowry, Michael English, Steve Green, Marshall Hall, Wes Hampton), Bill Gaither himself as Bass.

There is just this ‘timbre’ or quality of voice that is present in males that, when properly employed, is satisfying to the ears. Males can sing a lower booming part and a higher soaring part as well. This is the edge of the male quartet over a female quartet.

The female quartet usually can only go as low as a half an octave below middle C. Not particularly the boom that people look for. In the said conference’s case, it’s even kind of awkward for the TB part to be sung one octave higher. I presume there would be parts that the Tenor would overshadow the melody which is in the Soprano. Awkward indeed.

I guess females need to settle for other forms of voice combination aside from female quartets. The boom’s not there and the timbre isn’t just right. However, I am not undermining the quality of the female voice. In fact, they’re fantastic. They can’t just sing for themselves TLBB and SATB arrangements.

The Gaither Vocal Band (2008)
The Gaither Vocal Band (2008)

I’d like to hear from what you can say about this. Please post your comments.


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