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Conference Morsel: Authentic Performance Practice of World Choral Music

(An excerpt from the interest session “Music Beyond Borders: World Music for Intermediate Treble Choirs,” presented by Jennifer Alarcon during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
Create a lasting memory, reinforce the love of choral music in a singer’s heart, and amaze your audience with an authentic performance of a world choral piece! Performances are most authentic with the singers have internalized the culture, resulting in a performance that mirror the original expression (Parr, 2006). As the director, we are the driving force behind our student’s experience, so as you prepare a world choral piece for a performance, consider the ideas below.
Historical Perspective
Let’s learn as much as we can about the culture (Goetze, 2000). As a part of your personal score study, discover what the song or text was used for and where it would be performed. Knowing if it was a part of a celebration, religious service, ceremony, or to help in a time of grief will help make the performance ever so meaningful.
Cultural Perspective
Some cultures are more flexible in regard to instrumentation, improvisation, movement, etc. For example, Latin American music has such flexibility. One can feel liberated to remove verses as needed or add/modify auxiliary percussion instruments from the Latin American region. Let your creativity take over and explore the possibilities not explicitly written in the score.
Dance is one of the oldest forms of expression and is intertwined with singing in cultures around the world.  Adding movement can free the singers’ voices and immerse them in a cultural experience. Movement can be as simple as adding body percussion, claps, or stomps. It can also be as intricate as learning a few classical Indian dance moves for an Indian piece or the basic Merengue step for a Latin American piece. Feel free to explore and discover movement possibilities that are not prearranged in the score.
Works Cited:
Goetze, M. (2000). Challenges of performing diverse cultural music. Music Educators Journal, 87, 23-25+48.
Parr, C. (2006). Eight simple rules for singing multicultural music. Music Educators Journal, 93, 34-37.